Tony Sarg: Genius at Play


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Tony Sarg: Genius at Play by Stephanie Haboush Plunkett & Leonore D. Miller

Hardcover – Abbeville Press – Nov 2023 – 222 pages

Tony Sarg (1880–1942), an American artist born in Guatemala to a diplomatic family, first achieved professional success as an illustrator in London and New York. But in the 1920s, he gained even greater renown for his touring puppet shows based on classic tales like Alice in Wonderland and Robinson Crusoe. Fusing the time-honored craft of traditional marionette shows with a playful modern sensibility, Sarg’s productions were foundational to American puppetry: Jim Henson can be considered a direct artistic descendant. Yet this was only one facet of Sarg’s varied accomplishments: he was also a pioneer in animated films and children’s books, and, as a longtime designer for Macy’s, he invented the gigantic balloons used in the firm’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (He also employed one of his parade balloons in the famous Nantucket Sea Serpent hoax of 1937.)

This abundantly illustrated volume, published to coincide with a major exhibition organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, is the first to survey Tony Sarg’s protean career. It brings together imagery and artifacts from numerous public and private collections, and includes special sections on Sarg’s long association with the island of Nantucket and his influence on American puppetry. Tony Sarg: Genius at Play will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of popular culture.


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