AMHERST, Mass. — They're not the Mona Lisa or Whistler's Mother, but images such as the Cat in the Hat, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and other icons of illustrated children's books are gaining respect in highbrow art circles.
Once seen as fun but forgettable, the genre is now being featured in mainstream museums and dissected in college art courses.
And, as respect for children's book art grows, the money follows. Buyers are purchasing the illustrations as investments and philanthropists are stepping up, as in the case of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, which recently received a $1 million gift, its largest donation since it opened in 2002.
Some experts say the reason is simple - more art lovers are recognizing that whimsy and significance aren't mutually exclusive.