Ludwig Bemelmans

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Ludwig Bemelmans
Ludwig Bemelmans.jpg
Born (1898-04-30)April 30, 1898
Meran, Austria-Hungary (now Italy)
Died October 1, 1962(1962-10-01) (aged 64)
New York City, USA
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Occupation Writer, illustrator
Citizenship United States (from 1918)
Genres Children's picture books
Notable work(s) Madeline series
Notable award(s) Caldecott Medal
1954
Spouse(s) Madeleine Bemelmans
Children Barbara Bemelmans

Ludwig Bemelmans (April 27, 1898 – October 1, 1962) was an Austria-Hungary-born American writer and illustrator of children's books and an internationally known gourmet. He is known best for the Madeline picture books. Six were published from 1939 to 1961; a seventh was discovered after his death and published posthumously in 1999.

Life[edit]

Bemelmans was born to the Belgian painter Lambert Bemelmans and the German Frances Fischer in Meran, Austria-Hungary (now Italy). His father owned a hotel. He grew up in Gmunden on the Traunsee in Upper Austria. His first language was French and his second German.

In 1904, his father left the family for Ludwig's governess, after which his mother took Ludwig and his brother to her native city of Regensburg, Germany. Bemelmans had difficulty in school, as he hated the German style of discipline. He was apprenticed to his uncle Hans Bemelmans at a hotel in Austria, where he reportedly shot and seriously wounded a waiter. Given the choice between reform school and emigration to the United States, he chose the latter.[1]

He spent the next several years working at hotels and restaurants in the US. In 1917, he joined the U.S. Army but was not sent to Europe because of his German origin. He did become an officer, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He writes of his experiences in the Army in the book, My War With the United States. In 1918, he became a US citizen.

In the 1920s, Bemelemans tried to become an artist and painter while working at hotels, but had substantial difficulties. His cartoon series The Thrilling Adventures of the Count Bric a Brac was dropped from the New York World after six months. He associated with Ervine Metzl, a commercial artist and illustrator who is variously described as Bemelmans' friend,[2][3] "agent",[3] and "ghost artist".[4]

Death[edit]

Bemelmans died in New York of pancreatic cancer, aged 64.

Marriage and family[edit]

Bemelmans is said to have met his future wife, Madeleine "Mimi" Freund, as a model in Metzl's studio.[5]

Writing career[edit]

In the early 1930s Bemelmans met May Massee, the children's book editor at Viking Press, who became a sort of partner. He began to publish children's books, beginning with Hansi in 1934. He published the first Madeline book in 1939; after being rejected by Viking, it was published by Simon and Schuster.

In 1953, he fell in love with a small bistro in Paris, La Colombe in the Ile de la Cité, and bought it. He painted murals therein and owned the place for two years before selling it to Michel Valette, who converted it into a notable cabaret.

Bemelmans also wrote a number of adult books, including travel and humorous works, as well as movie scripts. The latter included Yolanda and the Thief. While spending time in Hollywood, he became a close friend of interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Mendl.

Bemelmans' Central Park, a mural on the walls of the Carlyle Hotel's Bemelmans Bar in New York City, is his only artwork on display to the public. He painted the children's dining room on Aristotle Onassis yacht Christina (now the Christina O), for the young daughter of the magnate, Christina Onassis.

Bemelmans is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 43, Grave 2618).

Madeline[edit]

Each story begins: "In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines... the smallest one was Madeline." The girls are cared for by Miss Clavel (often believed to be a nun, though her dress is more that of a nurse, and her title (Miss) is also more consistent with that of a nurse than a nun (who would have been Sister or Mother). Other characters include Pepito, son of the Spanish ambassador, who lives next door; Lord Cucuface, owner of the house; and Genevieve, a dog who rescues Madeline from drowning in the second book.

Bemelmans published six Madeline stories in his lifetime, five as picture books and one in a magazine. A seventh was discovered after his death and published posthumously:

  1. Madeline, 1939: in which Madeline has her appendix out.
  2. Madeline's Rescue, 1953: in which Madeline is rescued from drowning by a dog (later named Genevieve). Winner of the Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration
  3. Madeline and the Bad Hat, 1956: in which the "bad hat" is Pepito, the Spanish ambassador's son, whose cruel antics outrage Madeline.
  4. Madeline and the Gypsies, 1959: in which Madeline and Pepito have an adventure at a circus.
  5. Madeline in London, 1961: in which Pepito moves to London, and Madeline and the girls go to visit him.
  6. Madeline's Christmas, 1985: in which everyone in the house catches cold, except Madeline. (First published in McCall's in 1956).
  7. Madeline in America and Other Holiday Tales, 1999: in which Madeline inherits a fortune from her rich American great-grandfather. The book also reveals Madeline's full name, Madeline Fogg.

Adaptations[edit]

Books[edit]

  • 1934: Hansi
  • 1936: The Golden Basket
  • 1937: My War with the United States
  • 1937: The Castle Number Nine
  • 1938: Life Class – An autobiographical sketch.
  • 1938: Quito Express (travel book)
  • 1939: Madeline
  • 1939: Small Beer (based on his experience in Hollywood)
  • 1940: Fifi
  • 1941: At Your Service
  • 1941: Hotel Splendide
  • 1941: The Donkey Inside
  • 1942: Rosebud
  • 1942: I Love You, I Love You, I Love You
  • 1943: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
  • 1945: The Blue Danube
  • 1946: Hotel Bemelmans
  • 1947: A Tale of Two Glimps
  • 1947: Dirty Eddie
  • 1948: The Best of Times: An Account of Europe Revisited
  • 1949: The Eye of God
  • 1950: Sunshine: A Story about the City of New York
  • 1952: How to Travel Incognito
  • 1952: The Happy Place
  • 1953: Father, Dear Father
  • 1953: Madeline's Rescue
  • 1953: The Borrowed Christmas
  • 1954: The High World
  • 1955: Parsley
  • 1955: To the One I Love the Best – Bemelmans narrates his friendship with Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Mendl.
  • 1956: Madeline and the Bad Hat
  • 1957: The Woman of My Life
  • 1958: My Life in Art
  • 1959: Madeline and the Gypsies
  • 1960: Welcome Home!
  • 1960: Are You Hungry, Are You Cold
  • 1960: How to Travel To Europe All to Yourself
  • 1961: Italian Holiday
  • 1961: Madeline in London
  • 1962: Marina
  • 1962: On Board Noah's Ark
  • 1963: The Street Where the Heart Lies
  • 1964: La Bonne Table. Excerpts and essays involving food and drink, edited by Donald and Eleanor Friede
  • 1966: The Elephant Cutlet
  • 1985: Tell Them It Was Wonderful: Selected Writings (compilation of various autobiographical stories, published posthumously)
  • 1985: Madeline's Christmas ([published 1956 in McCall's)
  • 1999: Madeline in America and Other Holiday Tales

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "At the old Ritz–Carlton the best tables went to society snobs, not to celebrities". Food: Michèle Roberts. The New Statesmen. April 11, 2005. Page 57. Abstract at EBSCOhost:food; article available from some libraries.
  2. ^ Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeleine Bemelmans (1985). Tell Them It Was Wonderful: Selected Writings. Viking. p. 159. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  3. ^ a b Fairfax M. Cone (1969). With All Its Faults: A Candid Account of Forty Years in Advertising. Little, Brown. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  4. ^ Ron Barrett (1989). Sally Holmes Holtze, ed. Sixth book of junior authors & illustrators. H. W. Wilson. p. 25. 
  5. ^ Laura Lee (2001). The Name's Familiar II. Pelican Publishing Co. p. 25. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 

External links[edit]