Publication: A Diorama Takes Shape: Bringing the Genius of James Perry Wilson To Life

Illustration of the Yale Divinity School in a letter to Thanos Johnson 10 November 1944.

From 1944 to 1945, Wilson wrote, what was almost daily letters to Thanos Johnson, a young private in the US army, describing, in detail, his progress working at the Peabody Museum.  The letters are wide ranging, discussing , not only diorama work, but also architecture, music, and photography.  They were saved by Thanos and given to me in the late 1990’s.  They are the best description I have ever found of what Wilson did to create his extraordinary background paintings and they tell specifically the story of what is arguably the best diorama by Wilson, the Shoreline diorama.

I have been working with our publications editor, Rosemary Volpe and Sally Pallatto, our graphics wizard to create a publication to be sold with the upcoming exhibit.  The booklet will have a section on the Point Pelee diorama with information about the bird migration that streams through every year in the spring and the fall (written by my wife, Celia Lewis).  There will be a brief section describing the other Peabody dioramas and there will be an article, written by me about the creation of the first Wilson diorama at the Peabody, The Shoreline group.  The text relies heavily on Wilson’s letters to Thanos Johnson.

I am also publishing my biography about Wilson on the Peabody website.  The first chapter about his early years is up and on view at

Explore posts in the same categories: Wilson Dioramas

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