In celebration of Tomi Ungerer’s 80th birthday, the Tomi Ungerer Museum-International Center of Illustration is holding the first retrospective ever to be shown of his drawings of children’s books, one of the most renowned aspects of the artist’s work and the object of the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Depicting a strong inclination for the absurd and the subversive as well as a broad spectrum of graphic technique, Tomi Ungerer has been successful at sidestepping what is normally considered to be taboo concerning children’s literature. The exhibition “Ogres, Bandits and Company. Tomi Ungerer’s books for children” focuses on work produced during his New York period (1956-1971), undoubtedly the author’s most fruitful years with respect to this domain.
The exhibition assembles approximately two hundred works and includes one hundred original drawings on loan from the Free Library of Philadelphia, being presented here for the first time outside of the United States and organized as part of a thematic and chronological visit. The ground floor presents the theme of fables, something Tomi Ungerer like many of his contemporaries, has systematically developed in his books. The visit opens with a presentation of his first work from his New York period, The Mellops Go Flying, published in 1957, features The Clambake Mutiny hitherto unpublished in France and moves on to include Crictor, Adelaïde, The exploits of Papa Snap, The Beast of Monsieur Racine and No Kiss for Mother.
The visit’s second chapter is centered around the theme of tales. The most famous of these, The Three Robbers which has since become a classic among children’s books is shown alongside Moon Man, Zerelda’s Ogre, or again Allumette and Tomi Ungerer’s Storybook. Tales and legends have also been the subject of a series of colorful posters “Children’s Posters”, a combination of artistic advertising campaigns and children’s imagery.
The exhibition is made complete by a presentation of books that have been sources of inspiration for Tomi Ungerer and animated films produced by Gene Deitch for Weston Woods Studios in the early 1980’s. Another added feature includes drawings by several contemporary artists for children’s books such as Bob Blechman, André François, Etienne Delessert, Maurice Sendak, or those he directly influenced: Béatrice Alemagna, Magali Bonniol, Pascal Lemaitre, Alan Mets, Dorothée de Monfreid, Mario Ramos, Grégoire Solotareff.
Curated by: Thérèse Willer, curator of the Tomi Ungerer Museum