CEN­TRE OF AT­TRAC­TION

Win­nie-the-Pooh, that silly old bear, is the star of a new ex­hi­bi­tion at Bos­ton’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - BUDS & BLOSSOMS -

When peo­ple care too much, Win­nie-thePooh ar­gues it’s just love. That bit of time-tested wis­dom is as rel­e­vant to­day as it was nearly a cen­tury ago, when the beloved teddy bear and main char­ac­ter in A.A. Milne’s chil­dren’s books se­ries first ap­peared in print.

Now Pooh and pal Christo­pher Robin are star­ring in “Win­nie-thePooh: Ex­plor­ing a Clas­sic,” a new ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing Satur­day at Bos­ton’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts.

“The ex­hibit ad­dresses the fact that Win­nie-the-Pooh is a global phe­nom­e­non, beloved by many if not by all,” said Meghan Melvin, who cu­rated the show. “Sur­pris­ingly, many peo­ple are not that fa­mil­iar with the ori­gin of the story.”

While the orig­i­nal Win­nie-thePooh books were pub­lished nearly a cen­tury ago, the nar­ra­tive of the be­fud­dled bear and his ad­ven­tures with Piglet, Tig­ger, Eey­ore and Rab­bit re­mains pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies and young chil­dren. This year, Dis­ney re­leased the movie “Christo­pher Robin,” in which Ewan McGre­gor, who plays a fam­ily man liv­ing in London, re­ceives a sur­prise visit from his child­hood teddy bear.

“At their core, these books are about friend­ship and ad­ven­ture, and those things never get old,” said Lind­say Shaw, chil­dren’s li­brar­ian at the Prov­i­dence Athenaeum, a pri­vate li­brary in the Rhode Is­land cap­i­tal. “Even at a time when chil­dren are bom­barded by screens, they can re­late to these ba­sic ideas.”

In cu­rat­ing the show, Melvin’s goal was to re­con­nect vis­i­tors with an iconic story and in­tro­duce the books’ en­dear­ing char­ac­ters to a wider au­di­ence.

“These are clas­sics wor­thy of re­vis­it­ing,” Melvin said. The MFA show is not con­nected with the movie, but it’s a “nice co­in­ci­dence,” she added.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is di­vided into five themes ex­am­in­ing how Milne and il­lus­tra­tor EH Shep­ard dreamed up Win­nie-the-Pooh and brought him to life, even­tu­ally mak­ing Pooh and his honey pot a global sen­sa­tion. It’s com­posed of nearly 200 orig­i­nal draw­ings, let­ters, pho­to­graphs and early edi­tions on loan from London’s Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum and other lenders.

In Bos­ton, there are in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments for vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing “Pooh sticks” float­ing by in a pro­jected river and a slide for kids in­side Pooh’s house.

The first of the four books, “When We Were Very Young,” was pub­lished in Novem­ber 1924; the last, “House at Pooh Cor­ner,” came out in Oc­to­ber 1928.

Since then, Pooh has turned out to be more than a silly old bear. The books have been trans­lated into 50 lan­guages and mil­lions of copies have been sold world­wide. In 1960, the story was trans­lated into Latin and landed on The New York Times best-seller list.

Gen­er­a­tions of par­ents felt a con­nec­tion to the fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tives and il­lus­tra­tions of Win­nie-the-Pooh as chil­dren, and they’ve been pass­ing it on to their own kids, ex­plained Lisa Kennedy, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of il­lus­tra­tion at Mass­a­chu­setts Col­lege of Art and De­sign.

“The il­lus­tra­tions al­low read­ers to sus­pend re­al­ity and go on a jour­ney,” Kennedy said. “The il­lus­tra­tions are an invit­ing point of en­try that al­lows us en­try into the world of these char­ac­ters.”

“Win­nie-the-Pooh: Ex­plor­ing a Clas­sic” runs through Jan. 6, 2019, at the MFA.

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