Penn Libraries News Center

Covered With Vines: The Many Talents of Ludwig Bemelmans

Beloved children’s book character Madeline has grown up to overshadow everything else her creator, Ludwig Bemelmans, accomplished during his long, varied, and highly productive career. In the spirit of reclamation, the Penn Libraries is proud to announce the exhibition “Covered in Vines: The Many Talents of Ludwig Bemelmans.” The exhibition seizes the opportunity to show the Ludwig Bemelmans collection built by Jean Johnson Kislak, a longtime Bemelmans admirer and Madeline aficionado, presenting printed books, manuscripts, and art to recover a Bemelmans now largely forgotten.

The exhibit is broken into parts devoted to Bemelmans as writer, Bemelmans as artist, and Bemelmans as creator of Madeline, with hope of removing some of the vines that block a clearer view of Bemelmans’s many talents. In addition to Madeline, Bemelmans wrote other children’s books, autobiographical memoirs, travel literature, a lengthy profile of American interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, and numerous novels for adult readers. He had an extremely active and successful career as a commercial artist, producing numerous advertisements, illustrations, and magazine covers. The work of Ludwig Bemelmans appeals to a vast array of curiosities related to mid-twentieth-century American writers and culture.

Events surrounding the exhibition include:

All events will take place in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, located on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. The exhibit is free and open to the public through Monday, December 21st, in the Kislak Center’s Goldstein Gallery. For more information on the events (including RSVP links), consult the Kislak Center Events page:


About the Penn Libraries
The Penn Libraries serve the world-class faculty and students of Penn’s 12 schools. The Libraries’ collections comprise more than 7 million volumes, over 100,000 journals, some 2 million digitized images, and extraordinary rare and unique materials that document the intellectual and cultural experience of ancient and modern civilizations. Through our collaborative relationships, we supplement Penn’s great local collections with physical access to the Center for Research Libraries (approximately 5 million items), the combined holdings of the Ivies (more than 70 million volumes), and exclusive electronic access to some 2 million public domain titles in the HathiTrust. Today, the Libraries play an instrumental role in developing new technologies for information discovery and dissemination and are noted for groundbreaking work in digital library design. To learn more about the Penn Libraries, visit


About the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Kislak Center is a vibrant space that brings together people, technology and unique content.  Located on the top floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, it was redesigned in 2013 to allow several different groups to interact with objects of study simultaneously, increasing the use of primary resources in the University’s curriculum and access to the Libraries’ resources for the larger scholarly community. Today the Kislak Center encompasses the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Furness Memorial Shakespeare Library, the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. To learn more about the Kislak Center, visit