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. 

fredag 28 juli 2017

A night to remember

As mentioned already, on June 22nd Gustaf Tenggren was inducted as a member of Society of Illustrator's Hall of Fame at a Ceremony held in the premises of the club on128 East 63rd Street in New York. 
Society of Illustrator's prize reception dinner on June 22nd, 2017.
The walls are covered with art from Stephen Korshak's collection of illustration art,
including two works by Gustaf Tenggren.
(All photos in this blog post except for the Tenggren paintings by Jason Goodfriend,
courtesy of the Society of Illustrators.)
For once, the event reception was held in the exhibition area, which turned out to provide a spectacular environment for the venue, hosting parts of Stephen Korshak's amazing collection of illustration art as it was. Very appropriately, two works by Gustaf Tenggren were included in the show, both of which from his early artist years. 

Gustaf Tenggren: Trolls walking downhill, 1915. 
Gustaf Tenggren: Witch. From Bland Tomtar och Troll, 1922.
Receiving the award on behalf of Gustaf Tenggren was Barbara Wells Fitzgerald, daughter of Gustaf's younger brother, Gunnar. Her son Christopher and Nhu Tran accompanied her at the reception dinner. 
Gustaf Tenggren's niece Barbra Wells Fitzgerald,
her son Cristopher Wells and Nhu Tran on the Hall of Fame red carpet. 
Barbra Wells Fitzgerald sharing her memories of
her uncle Gustaf Tenggren to the reception audience.
Barbra Wells Fitzgerald and Cristopher Wells holding the award.
Gustaf Tenggren sure was in good company: the other illustrators awarded in 2017 were:
  • Mort Drucker
  • Bart Forbes
  • Burne Hogarth
  • Anita Kunz
  • George Petty
  • Ralph Steadman
From the impressive list of awardees, three were present at the reception. Ralph Steadman, who had provided the event logo, could unfortunately not make it but was participating through a video.

Ralph Steadman, participating through a video link, holding the symbols of the event. 
Anita Kunz
Bart Forbes
Anita Kunz and Bart Forbes both held acceptance speeches to the audience from the stand, while the reception's grand old man, Mort Drucker, preferred to thank for the award more briefly. After all, this gentleman, born in 1929, is in his right to go easy after a 60-year career as a cartoonist.
Legendary MAD illustrator and Hall of Fame awardee Mort Drucker
enjoying the company at the Society of Illustrator's prize ceremony.
All in all, this induction ceremony consolidated Gustaf Tenggren's repute as one of the important early New York illustrators during the years when the Society of Illustrator were still in its bud. I'm so happy that his niece Barbara was able to attend the venue, accepting the prize on her uncle Gustaf's behalf. It would have made him proud, entitling himself an artist as he always was throughout his career. 

lördag 13 maj 2017

And the awardees are...

I am truly proud to announce that Gustaf Tenggren has been chosen to be inducted as a member of The Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in New York. Finally he is acknowledged as one of the great illustration artists of USA.
Award of Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame
The induction ceremony will take place on June 22nd, 2017, at the premises of the Society of Illustrators in New York City. He is in good company – the other laureates at the event are:

Mort Drucker
Bart Forbes
Burne Hogarth
Anita Kunz
George Petty
Ralph Steadman

So go for a ticket while you can! https://www.societyillustrators.org/shop/buy-tickets/1121

torsdag 6 april 2017

Beyond Golden Books

In a series of lectures, the archivists and curators of The Archives of University of Minneapolis will talk about exciting holdings from the collections and their originators .
First in line on Friday April 7, is "Beyond Golden Books: The Art of Gustaf Tenggren", presented by Caitlin Marineau, the Children’s Literature Research Collections.
Illustration for Catherine and Frank Wells: "The Last Fairy", Good Housekeeping 1925 

Gustaf Tenggren is known and beloved for his illustrations for books such as The Poky Little Puppy, as well as his work on many classic Disney films, but if we dive deeper into his work, we can unearth a treasure chest of art, from unpublished works to out-of-print classics.

torsdag 22 december 2016

Merry 120th Christmas, Gustaf!

I would like to wish all readers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! What better illustration is there than this great painting from Opal Wheeler's compilation of Christmas Carols from 1943: "Sing for Christmas".
Illustration for "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" from
"Sing for Christmas" by Opal Wheeler.
E.P. Dutton & Company, New York 1943.
The book may have been planned as a sequel to the much appreciated "Favorite Hymns" by Inez Bertail from 1941. A Swede of origin, Gustaf Tenggren still has skillfully captured the very special spirit of the Anglo-Saxon type of Christmas. Already in 1936, 16 years after his arrival in USA, Tenggren had became a naturalized citizen, and his illustrations had continuously grown more and more American.
Cover for "Sing for Christmas"
His interpretation was indeed as convincing as to result in yet another song book by Opal Wheeler the year after: "Sing for America" was a collection of patriotic songs that proved that Tenggren had thoroughly managed to grasp the sentiment of American cultural heritage, and to a degree that made him seem even more patriotic than the Americans themselves. 
Cover for "Sing for America" by Opal Wheeler.
E.P. Dutton & Company, New York 1944.

torsdag 3 november 2016

Happy 120th Birthday, Gustaf Tenggren!

Today, November 3rd, 1896, Gustaf Tenggren was born.
His parents Aron and Augusta Tenggren lived along with Aron's father Johan Teng in a small cottage in the parish of Magra, situated in the West of Sweden. Already in the house were four older sisters, but Gustaf was actually the sixth in order; his older brother Sigurd died from diphteria just a year after Gustaf's birth.
In 1898 the family moved to Sweden's second largest city, Gothenburg, where Gustaf grew up. In 1910, being only 14 years old he was accepted at an art school, spending six years studying art while continuously painting portraits and illustrations.
Gustaf Tenggren at 20 years a hundred years ago, while visiting
Copenhagen in 1916 along with some fellow students. 
After living for a year in Copenhagen he and his wife, Anna, left for USA in summer of 1920. Gustaf would soon gain a reputation as a skilled and productive artist and illustrator, competing with the cream of the commercial artists. His fame led to his employment by the Disney Studio 1936-1939 where he took part in a number of productions of iconic animated films, such as Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi, along with a row of short films, many of which received Oscar awards.
Gustaf Tenggren app. 1960 in his home at Dogfish Head, Southport Island, Maine.
The house is furnished with Swedish antiques. 
When he died on April 6th, 1970, he had illustrated 50 books in USA. One of them, The Poky Little Puppy, was by the turn of the Millennium 2000 the most printed illustrated children's book in the USA ever. 

fredag 21 oktober 2016

Here they were!

Five of Gustaf Tenggren's illustrations for the
Little Golden Book "Little Black Sambo", Simon & Schuster 1948.
In the autumn of 2013 I visited Kerlan Collection at the Children's Literature Research Collection in University of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I was doing research for my biography on Gustaf Tenggren and spent a week browsing thru some fifty crates of original Tenggren artwork. I was happy to learn that the paintings for almost every book were present in the folders respectively. 
But when I came to the box containing Little Black Sambo, to my great disappointment I noticed that a number of the most important illustrations, including the wonderful cover, were gone.
So my feelings were mixed as I found out that the missing illustrations are featured at an auction by Leslie Hindman's auctioneers. I'm glad to see them alive and seemingly well preserved, but sorry that they have gone extracted from the Collection, probably while they were still in the custody of Gustaf's spouse, Mollie Tenggren.
Tenggren's version of this not uncontroversial minor classic from 1899 by missionary Helen Bannerman, was published as a Little Golden Book by Simon & Schuster in 1948. Nowadays it has since long gone out of print. Despite the content, the paintings are among Tenggren's foremost in the row of 13 Little Golden Books he made from 1942 to 1962. A true gem!