Tomi Ungerer

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Tomi Ungerer
Tomi Ungerer by Claude Truong-Ngoc (2014).
Tomi Ungerer by Claude Truong-Ngoc (2014).
BornJean-Thomas Ungerer
(1931-11-28) 28 November 1931 (age 86)
Strasbourg, France
OccupationArtist, illustrator, writer
Alma materMunicipal School for Decorative Arts (Strasbourg)
GenreChildren's picture books, erotic literature
Notable works
Notable awardsLegion d'Honneur France
[citation needed]
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration
RelativesTheodore Ungerer (father)
Alice Ungerer (mother)
Bernard (brother)
Edith (sister)
Vivette (sister)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer (born 28 November 1931)[1] is a French artist and a writer in three languages. He has published over 140 books ranging from much loved children's books to controversial adult work and from the fantastic to the autobiographical. He is known for sharp social satire and witty aphorisms.

Ungerer received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1998 for his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator.[2][3]


Ungerer was born in Strasbourg, France, the youngest of four children to Alice (Essler) and Theo Ungerer.[4][5] 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.

As a young man, Ungerer was inspired by the illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, particularly the work of Saul Steinberg.[6][7] 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 such publications as The New York Times, Esquire, Life, Harper's Bazaar, The Village Voice,[7] and for television during the 1960s, and began to create posters denouncing the Vietnam War.

Maurice Sendak called Moon Man (1966) "easily one of the best picture books in recent years."[8]

After Allumette; A Fable, 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.[9]

One consistent theme in Ungerer's illustrations has been 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.

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.[8]

Ungerer currently divides his time between Ireland (where he and his wife moved in 1976),[10] and Strasbourg.[8] In addition to his work as a graphic artist and 'drawer', he is also a designer, toy collector and "archivist of human absurdity."[8]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Overview of work[edit]

Tomi Ungerer describes 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.


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.[2][3]

In 2004 Ungerer received the Lifetime Achievement of the Year award at the Sexual Freedom Awards.[13]


Children's books[edit]

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)

List of exhibitions[edit]

Other works[edit]

The Fontaine de Janus on Place Broglie


  1. ^ "Official Website". Tomi Ungerer. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  2. ^ a b "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  3. ^ 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 2013-08-03.
  4. ^ Ungerer, Tomi. Tomi: A Childhood under the Nazis. Roberts Rinehart Publishing Group, Colorado. 1998. ISBN 1-57098163-9
  5. ^ Who's who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets - Curt Johnson - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-08-17 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Ungerer profile. Lambiek's Comiclopedia.
  7. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy. "Tomi Ungerer Returns". The New York Times. 27 July 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d Author bio, Moon Man (Phaidon Press Limited, 2009).
  9. ^ "Happy Birthday, Tomi Ungerer!, Free Library Blog (November 26, 2010).
  10. ^ "Tomi Ungerer – Biography". Official website. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
  11. ^ "Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story". Palm Springs International Film Society. Archived from the original on 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  12. ^ Press release ref. A comprehensive book has been published by Philipp Keel from Diogenes with essays by Tobias Burg, Cathérine Hug and Thérèse Willer, ref.
  13. ^ Owens, Tuppy. "Highlights over the Years". Sexual Freedom Awards. Retrieved 17 November 2017.

External links[edit]