Not so long ago I had a chance to talk with illustrator Maira Kalman when she came to San Francisco for the launch of a retrospective of her work at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Though we spoke a lot about her whole career, she told me about her year-long project documenting American democracy for the New York Times' website. That project, called And the Pursuit of Happiness, is now in book form from Penguin press and we've got a group of images from the book to share with you as well as a video of Kalman talking about her work and process in making And the Pursuit of Happiness.
The cover of the book of course shows us one of our most beloved founding fathers, one whose sense of invention and play would obviously appeal to an intellect like Kalman's.
Good old Honest Abe also gets loads of attention in the book. She commenced her reporting around the time of Obama's inauguration where Lincoln loomed large.
Kalman loves little more than rendering people in their everyday dress, in this case Margaret Plantagenet Pole who lost her head to Henry VIII.
Here Kalman speculates on whether Lincoln mighn't have liked the dancing of ballerina Laura Le Claire.
Everyday folk work their way into Kalman's narrative. As do loads of bright colors.
Here's another great chronicler of our democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville.
A student from PS 47 in the Bronx.
Kalman muses on what role trust plays in a democracy. Trust between citizens.
Sir Thomas More cuts a somber figure, though there was little utopian about his beheading by Henry VIII.
Mary Todd Lincoln's haircut.
I love it when Kalman really goes for the costumes of the people she paints. Here's Czar Alexander II of Russia.