Tomi Ungerer

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Tomi Ungerer
Tomi Ungerer par Claude Truong-Ngoc mars 2014.jpg
Tomi Ungerer by Claude Truong-Ngoc (2014)
BornJean-Thomas Ungerer
28 November 1931
Strasbourg, Alsace, France
Died9 February 2019(2019-02-09) (aged 87)
Cork, Ireland
Occupation Artist, illustrator, writer
Alma materMunicipal School for Decorative Arts (Strasbourg)
Genre Children's picture books, erotic literature
Notable works
Notable awardsCommander of the Legion d'Honneur (2018)
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration (1998)
RelativesTheodore Ungerer (father)
Alice Ungerer (mother)
Bernard (brother)
Edith (sister)
Vivette (sister)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer (28 November 1931 – 9 February 2019) was an Alsatian artist and writer. [1] [2] He published over 140 books ranging from children's books to adult works and from the fantastic to the autobiographical. He was known for sharp social satire and witty aphorisms. Ungerer is also famous as a cartoonist and designer of political posters and film posters. [3]


Ungerer received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1998 for his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator. [4] [5]


Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in Alsace, France, [6] the youngest of four children to Alice (Essler) and Theo Ungerer. [7] [8] The family moved to Logelbach, near Colmar, after the death of Tomi's father, Theodore—an artist, engineer, and astronomical clock manufacturer—in 1936. Ungerer also lived through the German occupation of Alsace when the family home was requisitioned by the Wehrmacht. [9] [10]

Strasbourg Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department. In 2016, the city proper had 279,284 inhabitants and both the Eurométropole de Strasbourg and the Arrondissement of Strasbourg had 491,409 inhabitants. Strasbourg's metropolitan area had a population of 785,839 in 2015, making it the ninth largest metro area in France and home to 13% of the Grand Est region's inhabitants. The transnational Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau had a population of 915,000 inhabitants in 2014.

Colmar Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Colmar is the third-largest commune of the Alsace region in north-eastern France. It is the seat of the prefecture of the Haut-Rhin department and the arrondissement of Colmar-Ribeauvillé.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

As a young man, Ungerer was inspired by the illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, particularly the work of Saul Steinberg. [11] [12] In 1957, the year after he moved to the U.S., Harper & Row published his first children's book, The Mellops Go Flying, and his second, The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure; by the early 1960s he had created at least ten children's picture books with Harper, plus a few others, and had illustrated some books by other writers. He also did illustration work for publications including The New York Times , Esquire, Life , Harper's Bazaar , The Village Voice , [12] and for television during the 1960s, and began to create posters denouncing the Vietnam War. [9]

<i>The New Yorker</i> Magazine on politics, social issues, art, humor, and culture, based in New York City

The New Yorker is an American magazine featuring journalism, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. It is published by Condé Nast. Started as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is now published 47 times annually, with five of these issues covering two-week spans.

Saul Steinberg American cartoonist

Saul Steinberg was a Romanian American cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his work for The New Yorker, most notably View of the World from 9th Avenue. He described himself as "a writer who draws".

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

Maurice Sendak called Moon Man (1966) "easily one of the best picture books in recent years." [13] After Allumette: A Fable , subtitled With Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce in 1974, he ceased writing children's books, focusing instead on adult-level books, many of which focused on sexuality. He eventually returned to children's literature with Flix 1998. Ungerer donated many of the manuscripts and artwork for his early children’s books to the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia. [14]

Maurice Sendak American illustrator and writer of childrens books

Maurice Bernard Sendak was an American illustrator and writer of children's books. He became widely known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in 1963. Born to Jewish-Polish parents, his childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust. Sendak also wrote works such as In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, and illustrated many works by other authors including the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik.

Allumette; A Fable, with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce, by Tomi Ungerer, was originally published in 1974. It is a "reimagining" of "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen. The book's extended title references Andersen, for "The Little Match Girl", as well as fairy tale authors the Brothers Grimm, and satirist Ambrose Bierce. The book was initially published in 1974, and carried in the United States by Parents' Magazine Press and Scholastic, both bargain retailers. It was also briefly reprinted in 1986, but has since gone out of print again.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is the public library system that serves Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the 13th-largest public library system in the United States. Unique among public libraries in the United States, it is neither a city agency nor a nonprofit organization; instead, it is governed by both an independent city agency managed by its own board of directors and a separate nonprofit organization, The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.

One consistent theme in Ungerer's illustrations is his support for European construction, beginning with Franco-German reconciliation in his home region of Alsace, and in particular European values of tolerance and diversity. In 2003, he was named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the 47-nation Council of Europe. [15]

Council of Europe International organization for defending human rights

The Council of Europe is an international organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, covers approximately 820 million people and operates with an annual budget of approximately 500 million euros.

The Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg Strasbourg Musee Tomi Ungerer decembre 2012.JPG
The Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg

In 2007, his home town dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration . [13]

Ungerer divided his time between Ireland, where he and his wife had moved in 1976, [9] [16] and Strasbourg. [13] In addition to his work as a graphic artist and 'drawer', he was also a designer, toy collector and "archivist of human absurdity." [13]

A biographical documentary film, Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story , was produced in 2012. The film was featured at the 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival. [17] In 2015–2016, the Kunsthaus Zurich and the Museum Folkwang in Essen devoted a large exhibition to Ungerer's artistic oeuvre and in particular his collages. [18] A comprehensive book has been published by Philipp Keel from Diogenes with essays by Tobias Burg, Cathérine Hug and Thérèse Willer. [19]

Ungerer died on 9 February 2019 in Cork, Ireland, aged 87. [6] [20] [21]


Tomi Ungerer described himself first and foremost as a story teller and satirist. Prevalent themes in his work include political satire (such as drawings and posters against the Vietnam War and against animal cruelty), eroticism, and imaginative subjects for children's books. [9] Ungerer's publications are held by the German National Library, including: [22]

Children's books

Adult books

  • Horrible. An account of the Sad Achievements of Progress
  • Der Herzinfarkt (1962)
  • The Underground Sketchbook (1964)
  • The Party (1966)
  • Fornicon (1969)
  • Tomi Ungerer's Compromises (1970)
  • Poster Art of Tomi Ungerer (1972)
  • America (1974)
  • Totempole (1976)
  • Babylon (1979)
  • Cat-Hater's Handbook, Or, The Ailurophobe's Delight (1981) — co-authored by William Cole
  • Symptomatics (1982)
  • Rigor Mortis (1983)
  • Slow Agony (1983)
  • Heute hier, morgen fort (1983)
  • Far out Isn't Far Enough (1984)
  • Femme Fatale (1984)
  • Schwarzbuch (1984)
  • Joy of Frogs (1985)
  • Warteraum (1985)
  • Schutzengel der Hölle (1986)
  • Cats As Cats Can (1997)
  • Tomi: A Childhood Under the Nazis (1998)
  • Liberal Arts: The Political Art of Tomi Ungerer (1999)
  • Erotoscope (2002)
  • De père en fils (2002)

Other works

The Fontaine de Janus on Place Broglie Strasbourg janus.jpg
The Fontaine de Janus on Place Broglie


The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Ungerer received the illustration award in 1998. [4] [5]

Ungerer received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement of the Year award at the Sexual Freedom Awards. [23] In 2018, he was made a commander of the Legion of Honour. [6] [24]


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  1. "Official Website". Tomi Ungerer. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  2. "French cartoonist, llustrator Tomi Ungerer is dead". The News International . Karachi. 9 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  4. 1 2 "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  5. 1 2 "Tomi Ungerer" (pp. 100–01, by Sus Rostrup) / The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  6. 1 2 3 "Tomi Ungerer" (in German). Diogenes. 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  7. Ungerer, Tomi (1998). Tomi: A Childhood under the Nazis. Colorado: Roberts Rinehart Publishing Group. ISBN   1-57098163-9.
  8. Who's who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets – Curt Johnson – Google Books . Retrieved 17 August 2013 via Google Books.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Platthaus, Andreas (9 February 2019). "Zum Tod von Tomi Ungerer / Der Mann mit Herz, der Mann mit Schmerz" (in German). FAZ . Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  10. "Biographie de Tomi Ungerer". Musées de la ville de Strasbourg. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  11. Ungerer profile. Lambiek's Comiclopedia.
  12. 1 2 Kennedy, Randy (27 July 2008). "Tomi Ungerer Returns". The New York Times.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Author bio, Moon Man (Phaidon Press Limited, 2009).
  14. "Happy Birthday, Tomi Ungerer!". Free Library Blog. 26 November 2010.
  15. Carey, Joanna. "Tomi Ungerer, rennaisance man of children's book illustration". The Guardian . Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  16. "Tomi Ungerer – Biography". Official website. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  17. "Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story". Palm Springs International Film Society. Archived from the original on 10 December 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  18. Press release ref. Kunsthaus Zürich presents ‘Tomi Ungerer. / Incognito.
  19. Incognito Diogenes
  20. Genzlinger, Neil (11 February 2019). "Tomi Ungerer, Brash Illustrator for Young and Older, Dies at 87". Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  21. Cónal Thomas (11 February 2019). "Tributes paid to French artist and writer Tomi Ungerer". Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  22. "Publications by Tomi Ungerer" (in German). German National Library . Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  23. Owens, Tuppy. "Highlights over the Years". Sexual Freedom Awards. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  24. "Le dessinateur Tomi Ungerer, père des « Trois Brigands », est mort". (in French). Retrieved 9 February 2019.