Opening August 4th: Zen Tales: The Art of Jon J Muth

Muth - i will hold you til you sleep

ORLANDO, July 23, 2018 – The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) is pleased to present Zen Tales: The Art of Jon J Muth, on view from August 4 – October 28, 2018. Zen Tales will feature 69 works by Jon J Muth, an American comic book artist and children's book illustrator, known for his painted artwork. 

Jon J Muth’s watercolor art has been called “quietly life-changing” by the New York Times. He is the author and artist of The Three Questions and the bestselling picture book Zen Shorts, as well as a Gold Medal winner from the Society of Illustrators for his illustrations in Come On, Rain! This exhibition series is important as it’s such a wonderful way to introduce art to children through picture books,” states Jane Ferry, Curator of Education, “And it helps foster a love of art and reading, which inspires curiosity and creativity.” Jon Muth will present a program about his work during Family Day on October 6, with a book signing after the event.

Born and raised in Cincinnati to an art teacher mother, Muth has been drawing since he can remember. “I've always loved stories. When I was young my mom introduced me to stories through art. I would draw and then later would write stories to talk about what was happening in the pictures. She took me to many museums and showed me lots of art books. There were tremendous stories in the paintings of Caravaggio, and Turner, and Goya.” 

Muth has had a lifelong interest in Asian Studies, including tai chi chuan, sumi ink drawing and chado, "the way of tea.” His studies have included stone sculpture and sho (brush calligraphy) in Japan. “I like pictures to let the air in and let you, the viewer, in. Art from all around the world can have this quality but when I was growing up, it was in work from Asia that I found it first. It was a naturally occurring understanding of space.”

As a young man, Muth studied with two different artists: a romantic realist and a Neo-Dadaist poet. For over twenty years Muth put pictures and words together in comics and graphic novels; culminating in the industry's highest honor, an Eisner Award for The Mystery Play. In 1996, he was invited by Japanese publisher, Kodansha to write and draw an original story for them. Imaginary Magnitude was published monthly and ran for three years. In 2005, Muth was asked by Caroline Kennedy to illustrate an anthology of poems. Their book, A Family of Poems, went on to be a national bestseller, subsequently leading to more collaborations that celebrated poetry and language, including Poems to Learn by Heart in 2013.

Jon J Muth’s books have received numerous awards and critical acclaim and his work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Stone Soup, a familiar tale set in China, won a National Parenting Book Award. Gershon's Monster was an ALA Notable Children’s book, winner of the Sydney Taylor Award, winner of the National Parenting Book Award, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. No Dogs Allowed! was chosen as one of the Best Children's Books of the Year by CHILD MagazineNew York Times Bestseller Zen Shorts as was Quill Award nominee and was awarded the 2006 Caldecott Honor, to which Kirkus Review said, "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be." This exhibition was organized by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

For high-resolution images, please contact Michael Caibio at

Image credit: Jon J Muth, While the leaves of autumn fly we will laugh the paint away, from I will hold you ‘til you sleep, 2006, watercolor and gouache, 22 x 18 ½ in. © Jon J Muth. Courtesy of the artist. This exhibition was organized by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

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