Children’s author and multimedia visual artist Jeanne Steig, known for her witty retellings of fairy tales and myths, most of them illustrated by her late husband, celebrated cartoonist and author William Steig, died peacefully in her sleep on July 26 in Quincy, Mass. She was 92.
Alpha Beta Chowder (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992), A Handful of Beans: Six Fairy Tales (HarperCollins, 1998), and Consider the Lemming (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1988), a poetry collection spotlighting the peculiarities of the animal kingdom, are among her critically acclaimed picture book collaborations with her husband.
In the art world, Steig was known for her sculptures, collages, and stationary puppets created from salvaged trash and various found objects. An assortment of her sculptures accompanied the exhibition “William Steig: Love and Laughter,” which was on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., in 2010. Jeanne Steig had also donated more than 800 original pieces of her husband’s works to the Rockwell Museum for its permanent collection of illustration art. She additionally created Cats, Dog, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig (Abrams, 2011), a compendium of previously unpublished illustrations, which contains “delightful, insightful anecdotes,” according to the PW review.
Holly McGhee, creative director of Pippin Properties, and Steig’s longtime agent and friend, shared this tribute: “I first met Jeanne Steig in 1992, and shortly thereafter, I became her husband William Steig's editor. I always stayed with them in their beautiful apartment in Back Bay, and as I worked together with Bill at the dining table, Jeanne would chime in from the kitchen, never shy to share her opinions. We three were joyful together, and when Bill passed on in 2003, Jeanne and I were grateful to have each other still. She was (and is) my hero, the best example I can summon about how to live a life. She started making art when Bill said to her, 'You can't sit on your ass all day. You have to work with your hands!'
Jeanne loved bright socks, shopping for them and wearing them; she explained their purpose: when she watched her nightly gory movie, she'd rest her feet on an ottoman and admire her socks. That was Jeanne in a nutshell. She found joy wherever she went. She had a bigger appetite than anyone I know—for food, for love, for art, for friends, for life.
Poet, writer, artist, mensch—all of those things she was. What a gift to the world.”