Selected Press

 

Press for "Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood"

Read about this Memoir and enjoy several excerpts

Leaving China; a Memoir by James McMullan

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April 5, 2014

The Star Tribune reviews Leaving China by James McMullan

REVIEW: 'Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood,' by James McMullan

Article by Tom Zelman, Special to the Star Tribune

James McMullan’s fascinating and often disturbing memoir, while part of the Algonquin Young Readers series, will appeal equally to older readers. McMullan was born into a well-to-do merchant family living near Shanghai, and his early memories read like a vintage MGM film: servants, outings, dinner dress, galas. Yet, as he tells us, his book is about “a nervous boy” searching for “a way to be in the world.” And James has a lot to be nervous about. As he approaches adolescence, the world he knows crumbles as the Japanese invade, his father enlists, and he and his mother sail to Canada on the last passenger liner heading out.

Read the complete article at the Star Tribune.


April 1, 2014

East Hampton Star Reviews Leaving China by James McMullan

Long Island Books: Boyhood Dreams

By Sasha Watson

In full-page watercolor paintings, each matched with a brief elucidation of some moment of the author’s childhood, frequently placed in historical context, that world is brought to life in lovely, poetic detail. Though the book is aimed at young readers, one wonders if it won’t appeal even more to adults interested in this period of history and in the emotional development of a young artist.

Read the entire article at the East Hampton Star


March 26, 2014

James McMullan in the New York Times

The Accidential Wanderer

James McMullanby Elaine Louie

James McMullan has painted 80 posters for Lincoln Center Theater, won a New York Times best illustrated book award for “I Stink!” written by his wife, Kate McMullan, and has just written and illustrated a memoir, “Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood” (Algonquin, $19.95). Born in 1934 in Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China, he was 3 when his family moved to the coastal city of Cheefoo (now Yantai). In 1941, three years after the Japanese invaded Cheefoo, Mr. McMullan and his mother took off for San Francisco, while his father joined the British Army.

» Read the complete article at the New York Times.


March 19, 2014

Vanity Fair

by Chris Rovzar

A Family History

Illustrator James McMullan has designed more than 50 posters for Lincoln Center Theater, and his paintings for New York magazine became legendary under editor Clay Felker and design director Milton Glaser. (His artwork illuminated the story that inspired the movie Saturday Night Fever.) In his new book, Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood, McMullan looks back at his youth in China as the son of a wealthy European family. His grandparents had emigrated as missionaries, and ran an orphanage for abandoned infant girls. McMullan’s memories of China, and later Canada and India, plus the story of his troubled mother, make a compelling and intricate tale. 

See more illustrations and read the article at Vanity Fair

James and Lily McMullan, my paternal grandparents who, as missionaries, established an orphanage and an embroidery business in Cheefoo, China


March 12, 2014

James McMullan in the New York Times

A New York Artist’s Wartime Childhood

‘Leaving China,’ by James McMullan

Lush violet shadows, a sense of the page as a deep box — a stage, really — in which a quiet drama unfolds in acute perspective: New Yorkers may recognize James McMullan’s signature watercolors from his posters for Lincoln Center Theater. (His saucy sailor girl, looking back over her shoulder to advertise a production of “Anything Goes” at the Vivian Beaumont, is a particularly well-known example.) New York Times readers may remember the illustrated 12-part series McMullan wrote on the artistic process for the Opinionator blog in 2010. And children and their art-loving parents will recall the many picture books he has illustrated, including the Times Best Illustrated winner “I Stink!” — written by his wife, Kate McMullan — a first-person account of the life of a garbage truck. “Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what! See those bags? I smell breakfast!”

» Read the complete article at The New York Times


March 6, 2014

Blaine Blog for Books: Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast

A Conversation with James McMullan

by Julie (Jules) Danielson

James McMullan, who has led a long and distinguished career in graphic design and illustration, has written a new memoir. It’s a fascinating read, and today over at Kirkus I chat with him about this book.

It’s called Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood and was released this month from Algonquin. McMullan was born in North China, the grandson of UK missionaries who had settled there, and in this book he recounts his childhood in brief, impressionistic vignettes accompanied by paintings — first, his privileged life and then his father’s departure for the war, followed by his and his mother’s attempts to escape Japanese occupation.

It’s a book aimed at teens (given that it was published by Algonquin’s young-readers imprint), but as many reviewers have noted, adults would enjoy it as well.

Read the entire article online here.


March 6, 2014

Jame McMullan in the Atlantic

A Septuagenarian Artist's Childhood, in 55 Watercolors

After a career creating famous images for clients, James McMullan undertakes a project for himself.

Poster artist and children’s book author/illustrator James McMullan has created dozens of well-known Lincoln Center posters and editorial illustrations, including a series in New York Magazine that inspired the film “Saturday Night Fever. This month, his first illustrated memoir will be published. Leaving China: An Artists Paints His World War II Childhood (Algonquin Young Readers) chronicles McMullan’s peripatetic existence before and after escaping with his mother from Japanese-occupied Cheefoo, China. Beautifully illustrated in his signature watercolor style, McMullan has written an unsentimental and compelling story tracing the saga of his missionary grandparents, family business, parents’ relationship, and father’s anti-Japanese intelligence work in the British army—all leading to McMullan becoming an artist.

Read the entire article at the Atlantic.


February 2014

Review from Booklist Online

Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood.

By Michael Cart

McMullan, James (Author) , McMullan, James (Illustrator)
Mar 2014. 128 p. Algonquin, hardcover, $19.95. (9781616202552). Algonquin, e-book, $19.95.
(9781616204013). 741.6092.

The first nonfiction title in the still new Algonquin Young Readers imprint, this is a memoir of celebrated artist McMullan’s early years from age 2 to 11. His was a hopscotch early life thanks to WW II. Born in 1934 in Tsingtao, China, he subsequently lived in Shanghai, Canada, India, then China and Canada again and, finally, in the U.S. “My mother and I were now wanderers,” he writes, “not yet attached to any particular place.” His life was not always a happy story; his mother was a deep depressive who abused alcohol, and his strict British military officer father died in a plane wreck. Moreover, he had a self-described nervous, timid, introspective personality, but he found “much comfort in the intelligence of (his) visual surroundings” and, accordingly, his story is informed by a keen sense of place. The book consists of 54 chronologically arranged full-page illustrations, each accompanied by a facing page of text. The exquisite full-color pictures are filled with air and space, reminiscent of the Chinese scrolls that fascinated him as a child. These pictures and the evocative text are a happy exercise in harmony. A fascinating, seamless portrait of a young life and the wartime world that will have appeal not only to young readers but to adults as well.

 

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Other Press

January 8, 2014

James McMullan mentioned on Theater Mania
Check Out Old Broad-WAY in the Artwork for Lincoln Center Theater's Moss Hart Bio-Play, Act One

James McMullan Poster for Act OneArtist James McMullan has designed dozens of posters for Lincoln Center Theater, ranging from musicals like Carousel and The Light in the Piazza to dramas like A Delicate Balance and Other Desert Cities. We, however, feel like McMullan outdid even his best work for the upcoming Broadway production of Act One, James Lapine's stage adaptation of playwright Moss Hart's legendary memoir. McMullan manages to capture the spirit of the shows in all of his pieces, but this one, with Hart staring off at the bright lights of Broadway marquees (including the Music Box, where his first play, Once in a Lifetime, opened), takes the cake.

Act One begins previews March 20 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, with an opening night set for April 17. Directed by Lapine, the production stars  Tony nominees Tony Shalhoub and Santino Fontana as playwright Hart at various ages.


December 13, 2012

Jame McMullan in the Atlantic

Could the King of Disco Art have Lived Anywhere but New York? Of Course Not

By Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Arta and co-founder of the MFA Design Criticism program.

A new exhibition spotlights James McMullan, whose illustrations have helped defined a Gotham's art scene for half a century.

Few contemporary illustrators have contributed to New York City's visual legacy as much as James McMullan—from visual essays in New York Magazine during in the '60s and '70s (including the imagery for the article that inspired the film Saturday Night Fever) to an ongoing series of narrative posters for the Lincoln Center Theater. McMullan, born in 1934 in Tsingtao, China, the son of Anglican missionaries, has always needed, what he calls "the laissez-faire of New York to release the tortured artist underneath." The sophistication of his New York clients, and support of playwrights like John Guare and art directors like Milton Glaser, have allowed him "to sneak doses of melancholy energy into assignments that were ostensibly about something else: The loneliness of my disco paintings, for instance, as opposed to the glitter and sheen of the movie." On the occasion of his first major retrospective at New York's School of Visual Arts, McMullan says that, "It's hard to imagine my getting away with so much uncommercial attitude in Los Angeles."

The "SVA Masters Series" exhibition is an honor bestowed on artists, designers, or admen on whose shoulders others in their disciplines have stood. McMullan's work dating from 1957 (on view at SVA's Master's Gallery, 209 East 23rd St.) reveals an evolutionary process of what he calls the struggle "to use drawing, particularly of the figure, to express the emotional content of the stories and plays I am commissioned to illustrate." Anyone involved with or interested in the act of drawing will find McMullan's struggles to be as illuminating as the actual illustrations.

The SVA Gallery is located at 209 East 23rd Street. Visit sva.edu.

» Read the complete article here


January 19, 2012

James McMullan from Container List, a blog of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center

James McMullan on the grid
By Beth Kleber

I’m not sure there’s a greater significance to James McMullan’s use of grids, but I noticed them in sufficient number to start thinking about why they might have appealed to him. The grids impose order, but I’ve always thought of McMullan’s work as deceptively methodical. He often creates works based on staged photographs, and at first glance, the drawings can appear to be a wholly faithful representation. A close look, however, reveals something brooding and wistful, maybe dangerous. The grids add a sense of being confined and a longing for escape (intentional or not). » Read the complete article here

Container List is the blog of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, featuring weekly graphics and ephemera from the design archives at the School of Visual Arts.

For this and other articles featuring the work of Mr. McMullan, visit the Container List at the Glaser Archives.

 


 

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