Two by Two

Two by Two: Lines, Rhymes, and Riddles

4 September—16 December 2007

"Every good story is of course both a picture and an idea,” wrote Henry James. “And the more they are interfused the better.” James might have been writing about Two by Two: Lines, Rhymes, and Riddles, an exhibition that combines picture, poetry, and the remarkable talents of two brothers.

Brad and Mark Leithauser were born in Detroit in the 1950s. Brad, a professor at Mount Holyoke, is an award-winning poet and author of, among other works, Darlington’s Fall, a novel-in-verse. Mark, the chief of design at the National Gallery of Art, is an accomplished painter and draftsman. Starting in 1985, the Leithausers began collaborating on illustrated works of literature that have delighted their audiences.

The Providence Journal praised the brothers’ 2004 book, Lettered Creatures, as “a work of sublime charm.” “[Brad] Leithauser’s light verse moves nimbly among taut rhythms and relaxed, golden conversation, while on the other side of the spread an image of deeply humorous exactness lovingly looms.” The Washington Post described Brad’s poetry and Mark’s artwork as “living in a world that is filled with stuff.” Mark’s drawings “burst their seams (and border) with detail, often rendered with the objectivity, precision and finickiness of scientific plates torn from some old volume on botany.”

Two by Two, which will display the text of Brad’s poems alongside Mark’s images, is scheduled to coincide with the publication of the brothers’ latest creative endeavor, an illustrated volume of poetry entitled Toad to a Nightingale: Drawn-Out-Riddles. The exhibition will showcase original artwork from Toad and from Brad and Mark’s three previous collaborations: A Seaside Mountain: Eight Poems from Japan,  Darlington’s Fall: A Novel in Verse, and Lettered Creatures. The installation also will feature other of Mark’s paintings, drawings, and prints that either inspired or were inspired by Brad’s writings.

The Washington Post observed that Brad and Mark Leithauser “have the aura of sane high spirits common to people for whom the line between work and play is nonexistent.” The publication accompanying Two by Two will include an essay about the Leithausers’ first two decades of interfused creativity.

Two by Two: Lines, Rhymes, and Riddles is offered as part of Museum10’s BookMarks, a celebration of word and image. For more on BookMarks and Museums10, visit

Image Captions:
Mark Leithauser
An Anteater
Pencil on rag paper, 2002-2003
Private Collection

Mark Leithauser
Pencil on rag paper, 2001
Collection of Margaret and Francis O’Neil