In follow-up to my January entry about Jan and his connections to music, I went back and tracked down all the album covers for which he created illustrations. One of the most vivid – and strange – was his work for the Boston Pops’ Carnival of the Animals (shown above). This work was so well received that it earned him a Grammy Award in 1965 for Best Classical Album cover.
This illustration is particularly interesting in that Jan juxtaposes the very serious musician bodies(wearing their dark overcoats and carrying their black instrument cases) with the masquerade heads of the animals – creating a very strange, carnival-like scene. Jan sets the scene in a dark forest, making the image almost as ominous looking as many of San Saens’ passages sound. Out from the masks peer the same staring eyes that Jan favored for the people and animals he painted. But that is where the similarity to his other animals ends. Jan normally liked to imbue the animals he painted with quite human expressions. The smiles on the faces of the felines in many of his paintings… the curious stare of the cat that appears in front of the butcher shop in his children’s book Amos and The Moon… and the trepidation on the faces of the lions being tamed in The Five Rollatinis… all lend personality to the creatures. But for this piece, it is all about the carnival… and that means masking of the humans behind the music.
In my mind, if ever there was an album cover perfect for enticing young listeners to listen to classical music, this one was it. I guess the Grammy judges thought so, too!