New exhibit at the Brandywine celebrates history of pop-up books

The classic fairy tale gets a pop-up update in “Beauty & the Beast” by illustrator and paper engineer Robert Sabuda.

More than half a century before movie-goers were handed their first pair of cardboard glasses, pop-up books brought two-dimensional illustrations to 3-D life. For their holiday exhibition this year, the Brandywine River Museum explores more than 100 years of the medium’s history in “Pop-Up! Illustration in 3D.”

For curator Christine Podmaniczky, the major appeal of pop-up books is in the element of surprise. “You almost have to gasp when you open the book and this construction unfolds before you,” she says. “You get that sense of awe and wonder.”

The exhibition begins in the late 19th century with some early examples of the form and continues with mid-century examples from England and America. The 1960s brought a renaissance in pop-ups, which began with innovative new books published in Czechoslovakia that inspired a new generation of American creators. Modern examples include Samita’s “The Odyssey,” which retells Homer’s classic tale through a combination of pop-up and graphic novel in a book targeted at adults rather than children.

Renowned illustrators such as Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak and Tomie de Paola are represented in the show, which also features original artwork and mock-ups by modern pop-up creators Chuck Fischer and Robert Sabuda. “Each tiny piece is created individually and put together by hand,” Podmaniczky says, “from the earliest pop-up books to today’s.”

If you go

‘Pop-Up! Illustration in 3D’

Through Jan. 6
Brandywine River Museum
US Route 1, Chadds Ford
$6-$12, 610-388-2700,


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