Although best known as an author and illustrator of children’s books, Tomi Ungerer’s life and artistic career defy easy categorization encompassing illustration, advertising, writing, collage, sculpture and architectural design. Throughout his life he always adapted his style and medium to suit the project at hand and in the process was constantly challenging his own ideas, skills, style and artistic boundaries right up until his very last day.
Ungerer was always a political artist – from the beginning of his career in the 1950s, his work challenged social norms and conventions with breath-taking originality frequently inviting the viewer or reader, whether adult or child, to question the status quo of the world around them.
Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1931, Tomi Ungerer lived and worked in New York, Canada, Ireland and the Alsace.
Ungerer published over 140 books which have been translated and sold all around the world, ranging from his acclaimed children’s stories, to illustrated memoirs, to controversial volumes of social satire and adult themes.
Ungerer’s illustrative style is celebrated for its minimal dexterity, darkly comic wit and dazzling inventiveness. Renowned for his iconic advertising campaigns and his contentious political posters that railed against the Vietnam War and racial injustice in the 1960s, Ungerer’s frequently subversive work provides invaluable commentary on the divisive socio-political events of the second half of the twentieth century. Ungerer’s work continued to be politically-charged and he was involved in numerous humanitarian campaigns such as for nuclear disarmament, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and European integration.
In 2003 Ungerer was appointed the first ever Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the Council of Europe. In 2007 the Tomi Ungerer Museum opened in Strasbourg, making him the first living artist in France to have a museum dedicated to their life and work.
In 2014, Ungerer was awarded one of the most distinguished honours in France, Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Mérite. This award was given in recognition of his continued lifelong artistic activism against prejudice, and in acknowledgement of his work for improved Franco-German relations. In 2018 he was further promoted to Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur by Emanual Macron, in further recognition of his politically engaged artistic career.
The Tomi Ungerer Estate
The Tomi Ungerer Estate Ltd was established in 2022 by his family. The purpose of the Estate is to protect and promote his artistic legacy so that his work can live on for generations to come.
Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur, France (2018)
Bayerische Buchpreis, Germany (2017)
Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Mérite, France (2014)
Lifetime Achievement Award, Society of Illustrators, USA (2011)
Palme Academique, Academie de Strasbourg, France (2010)
Franco-German prize for Journalism in Berlin and the Prize of the Berlin Academy (2008)
Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Karlsruhe (2004)
Erich Kästner Literary Prize (2004)
Named Goodwill Ambassador for Childhood and Education of European Council (2003)
Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, France (2000)
European Prize for Culture (1999)
Hans Christian Andersen Prize for Children’s Literature (1998)
National Prize for Graphic Arts France (1995)
Order of the Deutsches Bundesverdienstdreuz Germany (1993)
Legion d’Honneur France (1990)
Jacob Burckhardt Prize, awarded by the Goethe Foundation