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Tomi Ungerer

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Tomi Ungerer
Ungerer in 2014
Ungerer in 2014
BornJean-Thomas Ungerer
28 November 1931 (1931-11-28)
Strasbourg, Alsace, France
Died9 February 2019(2019-02-09) (aged 87)
Cork, Ireland
OccupationArtist, illustrator, writer
Alma materMunicipal School for Decorative Arts (Strasbourg)
GenreChildren's picture books, erotic literature
Notable works
Notable awardsCommander of the Legion d'Honneur (2018)
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration (1998)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer (German pronunciation: [ˈtoːmi ˈʊŋəʁɐ] ; 28 November 1931 – 9 February 2019) was a French artist and writer from Alsace (a French region on the French/German border).[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]

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]

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 concern sexuality. He eventually returned to children's literature with Flix in 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]

A 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]

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[edit]

  • The Mellops Go Flying (1957)
  • Mellops Go Diving for Treasure (1957)
  • Crictor (1958)
  • The Mellops Strike Oil (1958)
  • Adelaide (1959)
  • Christmas Eve at the Mellops (1960)
  • Emile (1960)
  • Rufus (1961)
  • The Three Robbers (1961)
  • Snail, Where Are You? (1962)
  • Mellops Go Spelunking (1963)
  • Flat Stanley (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, written by Jeff Brown
  • One, Two, Where's My Shoe? (1964)
  • Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, poems collected by William Cole
  • Oh, What Nonsense! (1966) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • Orlando, the Brave Vulture (1966)
  • Warwick's Three Bottles (1966) – with André Hodeir
  • Cleopatra Goes Sledding (1967) – with André Hodeir
  • What's Good for a 4-Year-Old? (1967) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by William Cole
  • Moon Man (Der Mondmann) (Diogenes Verlag, 1966)
  • Zeralda's Ogre (1967)
  • Ask Me a Question (1968)
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1969) — text by Barbara Hazen
  • Oh, How Silly! (1970) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • The Hat (1970)
  • I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories (1971)
  • The Beast of Monsieur Racine (1971)
  • The Hut (1972)
  • Oh, That's Ridiculous! (1972) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • No Kiss for Mother (1973)
  • Allumette; A Fable, with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce (1974)
  • A Storybook (1974) — art by Tomi Ungerer, collection of short stories adapted by various authors
  • The Great Song Book — ed. by Timothy John (1978) English version of Das grosse Liederbuch, 1975
  • Tomi Ungerer's Heidi: The Classic Novel (1997) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by Johanna Spyri
  • Cats as Cats Can (1997)
  • Flix (1998)
  • Tortoni Tremelo the Cursed Musician (1998)
  • Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear (1999)
  • Zloty (2009)
  • Fog Island (2013)

Adult books[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • Design of Dr. Strangelove film poster (1964)
  • Design of the logo for the ill-fated Broadway musical Kelly (1965)
  • Art work and poster for the film Monterey Pop (1968)
  • Design of the Janus Aqueduct in Strasbourg (1988)


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]


  • Wilhelm Hornbostel [de] (ed.): Tomi Ungerer. Zwischen Marianne und Germania, on the occasion of the exhibitions of the same name at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, 19 December 1999 – 13 February 2000, and at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, 16 March – 13 June 2000]. Prestel, Munich 1999
  • Maria Linsmann: preface to exhibition catalogue Tomi Ungerer-Illustrationen und Plastiken, Burg Wissem, Bilderbuchmuseum [de] of Troisdorf 2000
  • Thérèse Willer: Tomi Ungerer, the "Picasso“ of caricature. In: Graphis. The international journal of design and communication, ISSN 0017-3452, vol. 59, no. 348, 2003, pp 18–37
  • Thérèse Willer: Tomi Ungerer. Das Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg. Diogenes, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-257-02094-6. (catalogue of the permanent exhibition, with 210 illustrations by Ungerer, three essays by Thérèse Willer and several introductions)
  • Thérèse Willer: Tomi Ungerer: Energie. EnBW Service, Karlsruhe 2007, ISBN 978-3-934510-26-5.
  • Tomi Ungerer. Der schärfste Strich der westlichen Welt. du Kulturmedien, No. 812, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-905931-04-4, Table of contents Archived 17 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  • Daniel Keel [de] (ed.): Expect the Unexpected. Essays über Tomi Ungerer zu seinem 80. Geburtstag, essays by Manuel Gasser [de], Walther Killy, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Robert Gernhardt, Anna Gavalda, Elke Heidenreich. Diogenes, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-257-05614-3


  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.
  3. ^ "Tomi Ungerer". lambiek.net.
  4. ^ a b "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b "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. ^ a b c "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. December Press. 1988. ISBN 9780913204214. Retrieved 17 August 2013 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b c d Platthaus, Andreas (9 February 2019). "Zum Tod von Tomi Ungerer / Der Mann mit Herz, der Mann mit Schmerz". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Biographie de Tomi Ungerer". Musées de la ville de Strasbourg. Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  11. ^ Ungerer profile. Lambiek's Comiclopedia.
  12. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy (27 July 2008). "Tomi Ungerer Returns". The New York Times.
  13. ^ a b c d Author bio, Moon Man (Phaidon Press Limited, 2009).
  14. ^ "Happy Birthday, Tomi Ungerer!". Free Library Blog. 26 November 2010.
  15. ^ Carey, Joanna (24 February 2012). "Tomi Ungerer, rennaisance (sic) 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 Archived 24 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Incognito Diogenes
  20. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (11 February 2019). "Tomi Ungerer, Brash Illustrator for Young and Older, Dies at 87". The New York Times. 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". TheJournal.ie. 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. Archived from the original on 28 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Le dessinateur Tomi Ungerer, père des " Trois Brigands ", est mort". Le Monde.fr (in French). 31 December 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2019.

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