French illustrator Tomi Ungerer, 87, passed away this Saturday in Cork, Ireland. Born in Alsace, he moved to the United States in the 1950s where he became famous for his children’s books, erotic (and often humorous) drawings, and posters against the war in Vietnam.
Tomi Ungerer left France for New York in 1956, leaving his memories of the Nazi Occupation behind him. After arriving in the United States with 60 dollars in his pocket and a sketchbook, he became a press illustrator for The New York Times, Life, and Harper’s Bazaar. Encouraged by a publisher at Harper & Row, he released his first illustrated children’s book in 1957, The Mellops Go Flying.
Four other bookstore best-sellers followed: The Three Robbers (1961), Moon Man (1966), Zeralda’s Ogre (1967), and Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear (1999). The boldly minimalist illustrations accompany dark yet poetic narratives: Upon seeing the Three Robbers, “women fainted. Brave men ran. Dogs fled.”
=> In 2015, the Drawing Center in New York City organized the first U.S. retrospective exhibition of Ungerer’s works. Read our article here.