Jul 18, 2013
03:31 PMArts & Entertainment
Noted Connecticut Illustrator Marc Simont Dies at 97
Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times
Marc Simont, shown working at his desk at home in West Cornwall, Conn., in February 2010.
Acclaimed illustrator Marc Simont of West Cornwall, Conn., who died July 13 at the age of 97, had a broad reach—exhibiting his artistic talent in more than a hundred children’s books as well as political cartoons as he went about quietly making an impact on generations in his hometown.
“We had a wonderful show of his awhile ago, and it was one of the best attended, because people brought things they had from him over the years to share,” said Margaret Haske, the library director of The Cornwall Library.
“He was such a warm and kind person. People are already missing him,” she said, noting that there’s an illustration in the library by a local artist, Zejke Hermann, that says, simply, “Goodbye, Marc.”
“I didn’t really know him, but my husband [Pat Hare] did, and he told me he held soccer games for kids on Hubbard Field 60 years ago,” Haske said.
Hermann was among the young people, and that is how he met Simont.
“He worked with kids on Sunday mornings at the field, and he became a mentor for me from 7 years on,” Hermann said. “He was just an amazing man. He encouraged me to do my own artwork, and I was fascinated by his illustrations.”
Hermann recalled Simont’s interacting with young people in the community at local events.
“I watched him do sketches of kids,” Hermann said. “What was special about his illustrations was his ability to use simplicity and make the most of it in each drawing. They say ‘less is more,’ and it was his ability to capture all the right lines and put them in the right place that made an impact on me. He was so gifted that way. His hand, brain and sight coordinated so beautifully.”
Simont was born Nov. 23, 1915, in Paris to parents from the Catalonia region of Spain. He was encouraged by his father, Joseph Simont, an artist, to draw. Although he went on to study at art schools in Parish and New York, he considered his father to have been his greatest teacher, and he was determined to support himself.
He settled permanently in America at age 19, and it wasn’t long before his first illustrations for a children’s book appeared, in 1939. Over the years, Simont illustrated the work of authors as diverse as Margaret Wise Brown, Marjorie Sharmat, Bette Bao Lord, Charlotte Zolotiv, P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, Red Smith, Alistair Cooke and The Boston Children’s Hospital.
Readers may remember Simont for the “Nate the Great” series, about the adventures of a boy detective that he and Sharmat created, and Hermann pointed out that “the Thurber drawings: also have made a lasting impression. “In fact,” he said, “a Thurber dog is the mascot, or logo, of the Rose Algrant Art Show,” an annual event for more than 50 years in the community. And, it should be noted, Hermann’s rendition of a Thurber dog expresses the final farewell to Simont at the local library.
Simont was the author/illustrator of seven books and received the Caldecott Medal in 1957 for his illustrations for Janice Udry’s “A Tree is Nice” by Janice May Udry and a Caldecott Honor in 1950 for “The Happy Day” by Ruth Krau.