Jerry Pinkney is the illustrator of some of America's most highly acclaimed children's books. A tireless promoter of multicultural expression, his art fully celebrates the human spirit.
Born the fourth of six children in 1939, Pinkney was raised in a supportive, all-black Philadelphia neighborhood. His first interest in drawing came as a way of imitating his two older brothers. Pinkney's mother and teachers, recognizing both his artistic talent and his inner drive to excel, encouraged Jerry to focus his attention on his artwork. He received a four-year scholarship at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) where in majored in graphic design, and in 1992, he received the Alumni Award. However, it was the figurative and narrative artists such as N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle that made an impression which influenced his work.
Accepting a position as a designer at a greeting card company, Pinkney moved his wife and the family to Boston. He illustrated his first children's book, The Adventure of Spider (1964), while working for a Boston illustration house. Opening his own studio in Boston in 1965, Pinkney supported his family by focusing on advertising and other commercial projects, while, out of sheer love, he completed one or two books a year.
Since then Jerry has illustrated over one hundred titles. His books have been translated into sixteen languages and published in fourteen countries, and he has been the recipient of a Caldecott Medal in 2009 for his book The Lion & the Mouse, five Caldecott Honors, and five New York Times “Best Illustrated Books.” He has received five Coretta Scott King Awards, and four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards. Furthermore, he has received numerous awards for his body of work. In 2003, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University; in 2010, the Doctorate of Fine Arts, honoris causa from the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, PA; and in 2012, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York. Jerry was also a United States nominee for the l997 Hans Christian Andersen Illustration Medal, recognizing those whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Arts Award at the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania. The Society of Illustrators in New York, NY has presented Jerry with four gold medals, four silver medals, the Hamilton King Award, and in 2006, their Original Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011, he was elected into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.
In addition to his work in children's books, Jerry has had over thirty, one-man exhibitions in such venues as the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL; the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, CA; the Brandywine River Art Museum in Chadds Ford, PA; the Schomberg Center in New York, NY; the R. Michelson Gallery in Northampton, MA; the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA; the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI; the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, NY; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA; and the African American Museum in Dallas, TX. He has exhibited in over one hundred group shows within the USA, and has been exhibited in Japan, Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Jamaica, Bermuda, and Honolulu. His art can be found in the permanent collections at the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Delaware Art Museum, the Brandywine River Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, as well as in private collections. His works have also been featured in The New York Times, American Artist Magazine, The Horn Book Magazine, the CBS “Sunday Morning Show,” and on PBS’s “Reading Rainbow.”
Jerry has illustrated for a wide variety of clients, including the US Postal Service, National Parks Service, and National Geographic Magazine. He created art for the Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger commemorative poster, a foundation that helps bring food to those in need. He was invited to create a painting for the 30th Bologna Book Fair in Bologna, Italy and for the NASA Art Collection of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. In 2001, Jerry was invited by First Lady Laura Bush to illustrate and design the White House Christmas Program for the Visitors Center.
In 2003, Jerry was appointed to the National Council of the Arts (NEA), and served from 2003 to 2009. He was also appointed to serve on the US Postal Services Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee from 1982 to 1992. In 2012, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, MA. Additionally, Jerry is a Trustee Emeritus for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, where he was a 2014 Honoree, and is presently a Trustee on the Board of the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY. He has held several professorships and taught at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY; the University of Delaware in Newark, DE; and the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, NY. Jerry lives with his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, in Westchester County, NY.