Gustaf Tenggren

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Gustaf Tenggren
Gustaf Tenggren with children 1950.jpg
Gustaf Tenggren with children 1950
Born Gustaf Adolf Tenggren
November 3, 1896
Alingsås, Sweden
Died April 9, 1970 (aged 73)
Maine, United States
Burial place Spruce Lawn Cemetery, Lincoln County, Maine, US
Occupation Animator
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Tenggren's presentation drawing depicts the major characteristics of each of the seven dwarfs.

Gustaf Adolf Tenggren (November 3, 1896 – April 9, 1970) was a Swedish-American illustrator. He is known for his Arthur Rackham-influenced fairy-tale style and use of silhouetted figures with caricatured faces. Tenggren was a chief illustrator for The Walt Disney Company in the late 1930s, in what has been called the Golden Age of American animation, when animated feature films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio were produced.

Early career[edit]

Gustaf Tenggren was born in 1896 in Magra parish (now part of Alingsås Municipality), in Västra Götaland County, Sweden. In 1913 he received a scholarship to study painting at Valand, the art school in Gothenburg, Sweden. Tenggren's early schooling and artistic influences were solidly grounded in Scandinavian techniques, motifs and myths; he worked with illustrating in the popular Swedish folklore and fairy tales annual Bland Tomtar och Troll ("Among Gnomes and Trolls"), where he succeeded illustrator John Bauer.

After his first exhibition in 1920, Tenggren immigrated to the U.S. where he joined his sister in Cleveland, Ohio. Moving to New York City in 1922, he made a name for himself in magazine illustration and advertising, while continuing to illustrate children's books. [1]

Disney Company[edit]

In the 1920s, while continuing to illustrate a large number of children's books, Tenggren worked consistently in advertising up until the Depression; in 1936, he was hired by Walt Disney Productions, to work as a chief illustrator with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Tenggren was not only a concept artist on this movie (not an animator), but he did much of the illustrations for the non-animated tie-ins to the film, most notably the serialized version of Snow White which was featured in two successive issues of Good Housekeeping Magazine just prior to the film's release. He later worked with productions such as Bambi and Pinocchio, as well as backgrounds and atmospheres of films such as The Ugly Duckling and The Old Mill.

Children's books[edit]

The Poky Little Puppy (1942). Tenggren gave up his Rackham-esque fairy tale illustration style after he left Disney in 1940.

Although his work for Disney was still in the Rackham fairy-tale illustration style, after he left the studio he never painted that way again. From 1942 to 1962, Tenggren worked for Little Golden Books with illustrations for children's books such as Tawny Scrawny Lion; Little Black Sambo and The Poky Little Puppy, which became the single all-time best-selling hardcover children's book in English; and "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table," Emma Gelders Sterne's retelling of the Arthurian Legend . During these years his production increased, as did the marketability of his name with a stream of Tenggren books.

After he moved to the United States in 1920, he never returned to Sweden again. Gustaf Tenggren died in 1970 at Dogfish Head in Southport, Maine,[2]


Although the name Gustaf Tenggren remains relatively unknown, his work is widely recognized, both that in the Disney films and his work in the Little Golden Books. After his death, much of his non-Disney art was donated to the University of Minnesota to be included in the Kerlan Collection, a special library focusing on children's literature.

In memory of Gustaf Tenggren, a 9-meter (30 ft) bronze sculpture of Pinocchio, designed by the American pop artist Jim Dine, has been erected in downtown Borås, a city south of Tenggren's birthplace. At the cost of SEK 9.5 million, the Pinocchio sculpture was supposed to be paid for by private donations. The statue was erected on a tiered pedestal at the beginning of Allégatan, a main street in the center of Borås at the start of the Borås Festival of the Arts on May 16, 2008.



Background illustrations[edit]

Published works[edit]



Runaway Home, Elizabeth Coatsworth

Bedtime Stories, Gustaf Tenggren

The Poky Little Puppy, Janette Sebring Lowrey

The Tenggren Tell-it-Again Book, Katharine Gibson


The Lively Little Rabbit, George Duplaix

The Story of England, Beatrice Curtis Brown

Stories from the Great Metropolitan Opera, Helen Dike

Sing for Christmas, Opal Wheeler


Little Match Girl, Hans Christian Andersen

Sing For America, Opal Wheeler

Tenggren´s Story Book, Gustaf Tenggren


Farm Stories, Kathryn and Byron Jackson

The Shy Little Kitten, Cathleen Schurr


The Big Brown Bear, George Duplaix

The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Kathryn and Byron Jackson


Little Black Sambo, Helen Bannerman

Cowboys and Indians, Kathryn and Byron Jackson


The Little Trapper, Kathryn & Byron Jackson

Pirates, Ships and Sailors, Kathryn and Byron Jackson


The Night before Christmas, Clement C. Moore


The Tawny Scrawny Lion, Kathryn and Byron Jackson


Thumbelina, Hans Christian Andersen

Topsy Turvy Circus, George Duplaix

Jack and the Bean Stalk, English Folk Tale


The Golden Goose, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Snow White and Rose Red, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


Golden Tales from Arabian Nights, Margaret Seifer and Irving Shapiro


The Lion´s Paw: A Tale of African Animals, Jane Werner Watson


The Canterbury Tales, A. Kent Hieatt and Constance Hieatt



External links[edit]