The National Museum of American Illustration claims to be the first U.S. museum devoted solely to the illustrative arts. While there is a Society of Illustrators museum and headquarters in New York City, it has nothing to compare to the works here, nor to NMAI’s magnificent setting.

The museum is the work of Laurence Cutler and Judy Goffman Cutler, famed for their extraordinary collection of imagist art. The couple penned this recent book about Golden Age superstar J.C. Leyendecker. I loved the book, but some reviewers did not believe the catalogue of Leyendecker’s works were accurate, and others believed that Leyendecker’s personal life as a closeted gay man was not handled well. I don’t know enough about the subject to add to that, except to offer that the book is the best collection of Leyendecker’s work ever published, and everyone who appreciates illustrative art and classic skills will want this in their library.

This ten minute video is a wonderful visit to the museum.

Seeing those Maxfield Parrish pieces in that setting makes me drool.

The only museum that comes close to touching that collection is the Delaware Art Museum, or, perhaps, the Brandywine River Museum. If you have a few days to indulge yourself with an eye feast, this is the place to go. Nearby, you’ll enjoy the Dupont Estates of Winterthur and Longwood, and there are many absolutely wonderful hotels in the area, as well as terrific little diners and restaurants. I highly recommend the bed and breakfast experience at the Inn at Whitewing Farm. Get the room by the lake and enjoy the swans. Breakfast and afternoon tea included.

The Longwood estate gardens are so magnificent, it will take at least a day to enjoy them. I’ve been back to the Brandywine Valley many times. It is my favorite vacation place, and a shrine to great illustrators. The Delaware museum also has an extraordinary collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. You’ll find Howard Pyle to Dante Gabriel Rossetti in one gorgeous place!

My first visit to the Brandywine area was as the guest of a small comic book convention. I am very embarrassed to say that I cannot remember the names of my kind hosts, but I have rarely enjoyed such hospitality when I have been honored to be a guest at a convention. These kind people gave me a wonderful experience. I remain very grateful. The Brandywine Valley remains with me among my happiest memories. I sent my parents there as a gift, and they also thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

Here is an interview with the curator of the Delware art museum about Howard Pyle:

The next time I make the long drive to Delaware, I’ll be taking a longer drive to Rhode Island to see the National Museum of American Illustration.

Hat Tip: Cully Hamner