Speechless: The Art of Wordless Picture Books

July 17 - December 5, 2021
East Gallery
In 1932, Ruth Carroll illustrated the first wordless picture book for children, What Whiskers Did. Another wordless book did not appear in America until 30 years later.
David Wiesner

David Wiesner has won six Caldecott citations, five of which were awarded for his tour-de-force wordless picture books. He’s now traded in his paints and brushes to curate Speechless, an exhibition celebrating other masters of the craft, including some of the artists who influenced his own remarkable career. In Speechless, Wiesner presents a 90-year history of graphic storytelling and examines how the wordless genre for children developed over time. Showcasing 22 seminal titles, the exhibition traces the form’s emergence from the shadows of mainstream publishing to its enthusiastic embrace by the public today.

Curated by David Wiesner.

What to Expect

On view are 90 illustrations, preparatory sketches, and book dummies dating from 1932 to the present. A graphic timeline traces the publication history of wordless stories. The welcoming reading area offers over 100 wordless books to explore, including several out-of-print examples. Visitors are invited to draw their own wordless stories in a gallery activity.

Illustration of animals walking in progression.
Issa Watanabe, Illustration for Migrants (Gecko Press). Collection of the artist. © 2019 Issa Watanabe.

Featured Artists

Molly Bang, Istvan Banyai, Ruth Carroll, Raúl Colón, Matthew Cordell, Donald Crews, Marla Frazee, Tana Hoban, Molly Idle, Suzy Lee, Barbara Lehman, Emily Arnold McCully, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka, Christian Robinson, Eric Rohmann, Peter Sís, Shaun Tan, Tomi Ungerer, Issa Watanabe, Lynd Ward


Explore Further

Story Board
Discover the origins of wordless picture books. 
News & Press
Seeing is believing! New exhibition on wordless picture books opens. 

(Program is full) Join us as award-winning author/artist David Wiesner presents Simmons University’s 2021 Mary Nagel Sweetser Lecture.

A special gallery tour just for Museum Members!

In the Bookshop

The Lion and the Mouse

Molly Idle Postcard - Flora and the Flamingo

The Arrival