Leo and Diane Dillon. Art for Time Reading Program book cover, 1965.
March 07, 2022
Leo and Diane Dillon
Leo (1933-2012) and Diane (1933- ) Dillon were a remarkable pair of illustrators. The two met at Parsons in the early 1950s and married in 1957. An interracial couple whose symbiotic process resulted in seamless art reflecting their merged sensibilities, they called their work the creation of “the third artist.” Wide-ranging in their techniques and dedicated to depicting a world in which people of color and women featured prominently, the Dillons illustrated many children’s books and were the only artists to be awarded consecutive Caldecott Medals. Leo Dillon was the first Black artist to win a Caldecott. In addition to their children’s book work, they created many adult book covers (especially in the genres of fantasy and science fiction) and magazine covers. In the 1960s, they designed several jaw-dropping covers for the Time Reading Program done in unconventional techniques, including wood carving and crewel embroidery. (The Archives has a large collection of Time Reading Program books, part of the Steven Heller Collection.)
Leo Dillon taught materials and techniques courses at SVA from 1970-1978, and Diane taught from 1971-1973. A stained glass ceiling in the 1973 SVA student exhibition “The Bald Eagle: Survival or Extinction” was created by their illustration student students using the Dillons’ technique of leaded plastic sheeting covered with polyester resin.
Leo and Diane Dillon were the subjects of a career-spanning retrospective exhibition at SVA in 1993.
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