tisdag 12 december 2023

A Tenggren sleeper comes public

It is not common to get to see Tenggren art from the Disney period which have not been already published. Here is a recent example. Just recently, this concept painting by Gustaf Tenggren was sold on Heritage Auctions.
The painting depicts the moment when Gepetto, swallowed by Monstro the Whale, meets Pinocchio who has come to save him. Pinocchio's tail and easel ears are revealed and Gepetto shouts "But what happened to you?". 

This painting was made on a late stage in the production. At the time, Tenggren was busy making forest studies for "Bambi", but was asked to return to the studio to make more concept art for "Pinocchio". It can be seen from the design of both characters. On an early stage in production, when Tenggren started to make concept layouts for the movie, Pinocchio and Gepetto had not yet reached their final looks. Tenggren's paintings from that time show Pinocchio as a more toy-like wooden doll, and Gepetto as a stout man. Later on, before animation was started, Pinocchio's and Gepetto's designs were altered and finalized, which is reflected here. 

The total painting is definitely made by Tenggren: his thin, exact lines in combination with the subtle watercolor rendering of the various surfaces is unmistakenly Tenggren's. Some discrepancies in the modeling of the characters feel unfamiliar with Tenggren's style, though. Tenggren was a master of drawing hands and it is unlike him to draw hands with three fingers on humans. Also, Pinocchio's stature here is more "cartoony" than Tenggren used to draw.  Still, it is a great painting and I am thankful that we can add it to the known ones. 

This painting was close to disposal – it was found on the floor and rescued by a Disney artist during the move of the studio from Hyperion Street to Burbank. As it now comes to surface for the first time, it was sold at the sum of USD 48,000, following and consolidating the prize level of the Disney related artwork of Gustaf Tenggren.

måndag 16 augusti 2021

Gustaf Tenggren, the toddler

Just recently, I had the pleasure to receive this photo. It may look as an average 120-year old family group photo, but it is probably the first image ever showing Gustaf Tenggren together with his siblings, and of Gustaf himself  at that. 

Here we see Gustaf's mother Augusta along with her six children. The family father, Aron Enoch, is not present, reason unknown. 

The persons are:
On top, Olga Natalia b. 1888, and Anna Teresia b. 1886.
In front of them Ester Konstantia b. 1892 and  Agnes Olivia b. 1894.
Sitting in front, Erik Sigurd b. 1890 and deceased in 1897 from diphtheria. This is the only photo I have ever seen of him, possibly the only existing. It has been said that he was artistically gifted and carved little figures of wood like his grandfather, Johan Teng. 
And on mom’s lap, Gustaf Adolf b. 1896. Gustaf is barely a couple of months old. You can see that he does not want to sit still in front of the camera. 
Although not dated, the image can actually be quite accurately placed in time. The photo must have been taken some time in between Gustaf’s birth November 3, 1896 and Erik’s death on January 30, 1897. 
The following year, in 1898, the family would move to Gothenburg, where Gustaf's younger brother, Gunnar, was born in 1899. 

torsdag 12 augusti 2021

Silverware ads turned into pirate story book

During his first years in New York in the 1920ies, Gustaf Tenggren was fastly reaching a position as one of the most sought-after illustrators. Many of the advertisement commissions had a historical or mythological connection, and Gustaf Tenggren was a master at rendering historical clothing and props. Starting in 1926, Rogers Bros Silverware company hired Gustaf for a series of ads, depicting pirates hunting for treasuries, led by a young woman as their pirate queen. In 1927, a brochure was produced in the form of a story book, illustrated with a number of Gustaf's paintings used for the ads and with new pages to accompany them. The book is small, only 11x16 centimeters, but still quite powerful, especially the imposing cover. Here is the total set of spreads. Ahoy!

söndag 23 februari 2020

Gustaf Tenggren exhibition opened at Millesgården, Stockholm

On Saturday February 22, 2020, the long-awaited comprehensive exhibition of Gustaf Tenggren's art opened at Millesgården in Stockholm. This museum is built to commemorate the art of Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, but throws at least three great art shows of other artists yearly. This time, Gustaf Tenggren is the subject. The generous loans of art from important American archives like The Walt Disney Family Museum, Kerlan Collection and Weisman Museum in Minneapolis guarantee the quality of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. Along with the art lent by Museums and private persons in Sweden, the show stands out as the most ambitious Tenggren exhibition so far.

The opening was held in attendance of members of the American Embassy in Stockholm who also are sponsoring the show. Museum Director Onita Wass held the opening speech and curator and Tenggren biographer Lars Emanuelsson followed with some words. The exhibition features legendary Tenggren art from his period as an employee at the Walt disney Studio 1936 - 1939, never before seen in Sweden. Concept paintings for the feature films SnowWhite and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio and Silly Symphony The Old Mill  can be studied closely.

Spectacular illustrations from his years as a famed commercial artist and illustrator during the 1920ies and 1930ies in New York reveals why he was hired by Disney in the first place. Additionally, a great selection of children's book art from his years as a Golden Books artist tops off the exhibition. The show runs from February 22 through May 31 2020, and is a must for anyone who loves Tenggren art and wants to see a representative compilation of his art, spanning his total production. This opportunity may not come back, so hurry to Millesgården in Stockholm to see the show.

Model sheets for Pinocchio produced and previously owned by Gustaf Tenggren

Three concept paintings for Pinocchio

Pinocchio merchandise lent by artist and Disneyana collector Lasse Åberg

Little Golden Books and Poky Little Puppy merchandise

Pinocchio and  Snow White merchandise lent by Lasse Åberg

måndag 31 december 2018

söndag 23 december 2018

Gustaf's Night Before Christmas

Today I would like to send the best greetings to all Tenggren fans with a couple of stunning spreads. The Night Before Christmas by C. Clement Moore was published in 1951 by Simon & Schuster as a Big Golden Book. 

Gustaf Tenggren illustrated this classic in his typical 1950s style, using decorative, stylized planes of bright colors in a syncopated jazzy rhythm. A clear inspiration from his former Disney colleague Mary Blair can be recognized.  

In this spread, with Santa delivering toys, Gustaf has included three of the characters he invented for Little Golden Books. The Poky Little Puppy, The Lively Little Rabbit and The Tawny Scrawny Lion are all featured in the image, although the lion was not introduced until the year after, in 1952. I think this somewhat forgotten Tenggren book is one of his brightest and merriest. With that, i wish all A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

lördag 14 juli 2018

Gustaf Tenggren visits Millesgården

The year 2020 will be a special year for admirers of Gustaf Tenggren and his art. Apart from being a numerically and visually interesting set of numbers, it marks a couple of anniversaries connected to Gustaf Tenggren's life. In 1920, Gustaf Tenggren arrived in USA from Sweden. In 1970 he died in Maine after a long career. That means that the year 2020 not only marks the centennial anniversary of his arrival in USA but also the 50-year commemoration of his passing.
Carl Milles, 1875 – 1955 and Gustaf Tenggren, 1896 – 1970
So what can be more appropriate than to throw a comprehensive exhibition of his work? As it happens, the museum of Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, Millesgården, has decided to do just that. In spring of 2020, a Gustaf Tenggren exhibition will be held at Millesgårdens Konsthall. The scope is to display a total overview of Tenggren's production and I have been asked to curate the show, the task of which I have most gratefully, although in utter humbleness, accepted.

The venue of Millesgården seems quite logical – the similarities of the two artists are many. Carl Milles was born in Sweden and had built a career in Sweden as a prominent sculptor with several commissions before he visited USA in the beginning of the 1930ies. In 1931 he was hired as a professor in sculpture by the Cranbrook Academy. He stayed and worked in USA for 20 years, before he returned to his home at Lidingö, the current premises of Millesgården Museum. 

Gustaf Tenggren had also started his career as an illustrator of magazines and fairy tale books when he left Sweden for USA. Just as his fellow countryman he built a solid reputation as an artist and illustrator on American turf, but unlike Milles, he never returned to his paternal homeland. 
The homecoming of Tenggren's art to the country where he was forgotten for a vast period will mean a great opportunity to get acquainted to Gustaf Tenggren's art as a whole. The venue for this event could not be better; Milles and Tenggren is a combo hard to beat.