Photo/IllutrationLeo Lionni’s granddaughter Annie and Itabashi Ward Mayor Takeshi Sakamoto hold a picture of the sculpture “The Imaginary Garden” at a news conference. (Harumi Yamamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The granddaughter of renowned children's picture book author Leo Lionni (1910-1999) has agreed to donate 67 of his works, including oil paintings and sculptures, to the Itabashi Art Museum in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward.

Annie Lionni visited Japan and presented the catalog to Itabashi Ward Mayor Takeshi Sakamoto on July 13.

Leo Lionni was born in Holland into a Jewish family. After exiling himself to the United States to escape the Nazis, he became a popular artist in graphic design and other mediums.

Lionni authored close to 40 picture books, including “Swimmy” and “Frederick,” before his death in Italy.

Many of his works were translated into other languages, including Japanese, and have attracted Japanese fans in a wide range of generations.

The Itabashi Art Museum maintained a relationship with the artist until his death, which began when it held the Leo Lionni exhibition in the 1990s, co-hosted by The Asahi Shimbun.

Annie Lionni said at a news conference on July 13 that her goal had been to find a place where her grandfather's creations would be treasured and preserved. Lionni also said she wanted to create a research center of his works in Itabashi Ward.

The items she will donate include one of Leo Lionni's finest sculptures, “The Imaginary Garden” (1978), nine oil paintings and 43 designs.

All the pieces are planned to be shown at an exhibition to be held between May and June 2020. Annie Lionni and other relatives of the writer established a foundation and have been organizing her grandfather's works.

Other items such as original drawings from Leo Lionni's picture books may also be donated in the near future.

The exhibition “Leo Lionni for everyone” hosted by The Asahi Shimbun and other sponsors is under way at Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward until Sept. 29 featuring about 200 works by Lionni, including “The Imaginary Garden” and original drawings from his picture books.