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Peter Sís

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Peter Sís (b. 1949) is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker. He attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, and the Royal College of Art in London. After a government-commissioned film project for the 1984 Winter Olympics was cancelled due to Czechoslovakia’s boycott of the event, Sís moved to New York City to begin a new career. He has since become the first children’s book illustrator to win the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, and won the 2012 Hans Christian Anderson Award, which is considered the most prestigious award in international children’s literature. Peter Sís is exclusively represented by Mary Ryan Gallery in New York, which held solo exhibitions of his work in 2008 and 2011.

Born in Brno, in USSR-era Czechoslovakia, Sis gained notoriety as a leading artist and illustrator with the publication of the 1986 Newbery Medal Winner, The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman. With more than 20 books to his credit, Sís received seven New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year awards, two Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors, Society of Illustrators gold and silver medals, the Robert F. Sibert medal, three New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of the Year, and three Caldecott Honors. International awards include the Golden Bear Award at the 1980 West Berlin Film Festival, the Grand Prix Toronto, the Cine Golden Eagle Award, Bologna Ragazzi Non-Fiction Award, Deutscher Jugendbuchpreis, Prix Sorcières, and Most Beautiful Czech Book of the Year.

His book “The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain” (2007) received both the American Library Association's Caldecott Honor and ALA's 2008 Robert Silbert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for young readers. In 2011, he published “Conference of the Birds,” an adaptation of twelfth-century Persian poet Farid Ud-Din Attar's epic poem. This was his first book for adults.

Sis began making animated films in 1975, drawing each image and frame entirely by hand. The 1977 film Island for 6,000 Alarms Clocks, A Modern Fairy Tale, was banned in Czechoslovakia, and both Heads (1980) and Players (1982) won awards at the West Berlin Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival, respectively. IN 2008, the MIT List Visual Arts Center presented Sis’ “Players,” a satirical, animated film about human aggression, on their Media Test Wall.

Sís’s editorial illustrations have appeared in prominent magazines in the United States and abroad, among them Time, Newsweek, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times Book Review. Other important projects include the famous poster for Milos Forman’s Academy Award-winning motion picture Amadeus in 1984, a poster for the New York City subway system, a stage set for the Joffrey Ballet, and significant murals for the Washington/Baltimore Airport, mosaics for New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Arts for Transit program at the Lexington Ave/86th Street train station in 2004, and a mural commission for the Champaign Public Library in Illinois in 2012.

Sís has recently been working on an ongoing collection of memorial tapestries commissioned by Amnesty International in 2016. The Civil Rights Tapestries initially began as illustrations, and evolved into a series of tapestries weaved by Ateliers Pinton to honor human rights activists around the world, including Czech Republic political dissident Vaclav Havel, Irish poet Seamus Heaney, songwriter John Lennon, South African leader Nelson Mandela, and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Sís’ work has been exhibited in Prague, London, Zurich, Hamburg, Los Angeles, and New York in both solo and group shows. He has most recently been exhibited at the Carle Museum (2019), Czech Center, NY (2014), Morgan Library and Museum (2014), Bohemian National Hall (2014), Israel Museum (2011) and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (2003).
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