måndag 23 december 2013

A not so Merry Christmas at all

As is the case in many of Hans Christian Andersen's so called fairy tales, The Little Match Girl is a tragic story, not at all suitable for small children. The poor girl is forced by her parents to sell matches in the street a freezing Christmas Eve. Nobody buys from her but she doesn't dare top go home. To keep warm she lights one after of the matches and sees the loveliest sights, hallucinating from cold, until she freezes to death in a corner, while people are hasting by on their way home to their families. Now there's a nice goodnight tale for your toddler!
Little Match Girl, Grosset and Dunlap 1944
Anyway, in 1944 Gustaf Tenggren illustrated this story for Grosset and Dunlap. When I first saw this book, I was not surprised that the end was changed: the little girl doesn't die at all, she gets rescued and wakes up in a warm bed in a rich house where she could stay. Of course, that's natural; a commecial book company simply can't give children the brutal facts of cruel poverty.
The little match girl gets rescued and wakes up in a warm bed
with a caring old lady that wants her as her grandchild.
The very last image of the book where The Little Match Girl is lying
on a cushion, but still in her raggedy beggar's clothes. The painting is ambiguous;
is she really sleeping or is she in fact dead after all?
But I hadn't expected Gustaf Tenggren to produce such a lame ending, since he was a stern and realistic artist and with a deep respect towards the literature classics. I always suspected that Tenggren was unwillingly forced to change the ending; at least I hoped so.
That's why I was quite pleased when I browsed through the dummy for Little Match Girl in The Kerlan Collection - there it was, the real end illustration. Gustaf had meant to illustrate the actual story as it was, in all its sadness. But naturally, the drawing had been rejected. So here they are, both of the endings. You choose.
Gustaf's suggestion from the book dummy for the last image.
This is a dead Little Match Girl, no doubt about it; Gustaf has even written so in the text above.
The last picture in the actual book bears a certain similarity to this one.
Kerlan collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections.

tisdag 10 december 2013

Grimm's Fairy Tales illustration

An interesting Tenggren painting is sold at Bonhams, NY tomorrow Wednesday Dec 11.
This is an alternative for one of the illustrations in the Grimm's Fairy Tales that was published first time in Sweden 1922 and in Denmark 1923. A later edition was published in Germany as Grimm's Märchenschatz, but with the same set of prints as in all editions.
Original Tenggren watercolor illustration, 1918-19
Tenggren worked on the total of thirty illustrations from 1918 - 1920 and actually delivered the last four of them after he had moved to the USA. Tenggren's original Grimm painting are very seldom to appear and this is a unique opportunity to acquire a spectacular Tenggren piece in his early fantasy style.

Print from Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind

Here's another wonderful example of the Tenggren treasures of Kerlan Collection: an original drawing from Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind. I wanted to show it in all it's misery, yellowed and spotted with age; let's call it patina.
Original drawing for Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind.
The Siren of the Woods is being tormented by the Vittra
The book was published in 1932 by Harper and Brothers. It is a compilation of Swedish folk fairy tales rewritten by Alicia O'reardon Overbeck, and contains some of the most outstanding illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren. 
One of the color plates. The Siren of the Woods is luring the young Lapland boy.
 There are two color plates and 14 line b-w drawings. This is Tenggren at his very best, with all the penmanship you see throughout his twenties and thirties. Too bad there's only one single illustration left in the collection, but it's a great one!

onsdag 20 november 2013

A great dame passed away

On Tuesday November 19, Diane Disney Miller sadly passed away at 79 years of age. She was the eldest and sole surviving daughter of Walt Disney. Lately she had been deeply occupied with the creation of The Disney Family Museum in San Fransisco.
Diane Disney Miller, 1933 - 2013
In November 17, 1956, Saturday Evening Post published the first in a series of articles by Diane Disney Miller, My dad Walt Disney. Being a former employee at Disney's studios, Gustaf Tenggren was asked to paint the cover.
Cover for The Saturday Evening Post, November 17 1956
The original painting is said to have been offered  by the Saturday Evening Post as a gift to Walt Disney, but it is not known if he accepted or not. Just recently, though, I heard that Diane Disney Miller had bought the painting for the newly built Family Museum. So it's where it belongs now. Alas, Diane Disney Miller will not be there to see it. As it happens, she passed away only two days later than the day and month of the publishing of this issue.

tisdag 19 november 2013

Gus goes Goose

In 1929 Gustaf Tenggren illustrated a compilation of Mother Goose for Houghton and Mifflin. It was meant to be a school book and contained a number of small educational tasks for the children to solve. The first version had a color front cover which was also used as a frontispiece, but the later editions had only plain B&W print.
Mother Goose book, Houghton and Mifflin 1929

This was the first of Gustaf's book that was paid by royalties, but certainly not the last one. The successful row of Golden Books were also made on a partial royalty basis and rendered a solid economic basis for the later part of his life.
After Gustaf Tenggren had left the Walt Disney Studios in 1939, he made a totally new version of the french classic. From earlier using delicate transparent water color washes, he turned to tempera colors which could be layered heavily and proved to stand over painting without bleeding.
The Tenggren Mother Goose, Little, Brown & Co 1940

The contrast was as clear as day and night and must have been shocking to the fans of Tenggren's old-style illustration style. But when The Tenggren Mother Goose was published in 1940, the critics were enthusiastic: "This is the best Mother Goose ever!", they claimed unanimously.
In Kerlan Collection there is yet another try-out cover design for the book. It is never published but seems to be made in the late1950ies.
Alternate Mother Goose cover, 1950ies.
Published with courtesy of Kerlan collection of
the University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections.
It's probably not made for Simon & Schuster's Golden Books, since Feodor Rojankovski already had made a Mother Goose for them. Possibly it was meant for a re-issue of The Tenggren Mother Goose but never realized.
The three covers with each some ten years between them describe the evolution of Tenggren's style through the years. It was made possible by his ability to adapt to the various designs of the current time, but never losing his draftsmanship which was deeply rooted in art history.

fredag 8 november 2013

Anna Tenggren

Anna Tenggren, first wife of Gustaf Tenggren. She was born Halmstad, Sweden.
Her brother Rudolf Petersson,  Gustaf's fellow art student and best friend,
was to become a well known cartoonist.
In 1932 he started to draw the still published Swedish comic, 91:an Karlsson. 
Gustaf Tenggren married Anna Petersson in 1918 on her birthday October 3rd. She was the sister of his best friend and fellow art student, Rudolf Peterson. In july 1920 Gustaf and Anna went to USA from Copenhagen on the emigration ship Hellig Olaf. They settled in Cleveland, OH, where Gustaf had already two sisters. The year after, her brother Rudolf accompanied them, starting a career as a cartoonist for the Cleveland paper The Bystander. Gustaf and Anna had lived in Cleveland for some two years when Rudolf met Asta, a Norwegian girl. Her best friend was Mollie Froberg who were to become Gustaf Tenggren's second wife.

Clipping from Cleveland Press, 1930.
The portrait received 2:nd prize in the spring
exhibition at Cleveland Art Museum that year. 
Portrait of Anna Tenggren, painted by Elmer Brubeck in 1930.
Published with kind permission from Bradley Brubeck.

As Gustaf Tenggren moved to New York City along with Mollie and Anna in 1923, the relation to Anna faded and they eventually separated. Anna Tenggren went back to Cleveland and worked for Elroy J. Kulas, the founder of a large steel company.
In 1936 she went back to Sweden and in 1945 she married to Åke Brink with whom she spent the rest of her life. 
Anna with car and dogs in Cleveland, 1930's.

måndag 28 oktober 2013

Ghastly, Gustaf!

As Halloween is coming up it might be accurate to look into one of Gustaf Tenggren's late book projects, alas one that didn't come to publication. Gustaf was an idle reader and had a large library. Probably in the early sixties, he compiled a list of 12 ghost stories from famous authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy. 
Cover sketch 1
The huge amount of thorough sketches show Tenggren's great dedication to this project, but for some reason it was never realized. Had it been published, it would probably have been one of his greatest books. Maybe the publishers got cold feet when they saw the collected horror impact from the sketch material. Here are some of the drawings from the pile of dark and eerie visions that could have been the scariest of all Tenggren books, The Tenggren selection of Weird and Fantastic Tales!

Cover sketch 2
Cover sketch 3
Illustration sketch 1

Illustration sketch 2
Illustration sketch 3

All images by courtesy of Kerlan collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections

tisdag 22 oktober 2013


During the 1920's and the early 1930's Gustaf Tenggren had a number of illustration commissions for magazines, such as Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping and Redbook. This wonderful watercolor illustration from the Tenggren Papers in the Kerlan Collection is a good example of the type of paintings he made for short novels and advertisements.
Pirates drinking grog.
By courtesy of Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries with permissions
from the Archives and Special Collections.
It's unknown whether it was eventually printed, but Tenggren was sought after for his ability to paint pirates, a theme that he returned to all his life. In 1926 The New York World even called him "The new Howard Pyle", and his Pirate Girl ads for Rogers Bros silverware were a great success in the later half of the 1920's.

måndag 7 oktober 2013

Early Tenggren book discovered

Here's some more from my visit at Kerlan Collection, University of Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the oldest items to be found in the catalog is a sketch for a cover. The title is En sagokrans (A garland of fairy tales). In the catalog it's stated as not confirmed as published.
A sketch for a book cover in the Tenggren papers, Kerlan Collection
I had never heard of it until I found it in this collection. I went to the Royal National Library in Stockholm where all Swedish printed items are sent for archiving. The book was not registered digitally but had a card in the old handwritten catalog. It said: "En sagokrans by Helena Nyblom, Published by Åhlen och Åkerlund 1918". It was the same company that published the fairy tale annual Bland Tomtar och Troll. This year Gustaf Tenggren also illustrated the total volume on his own for the first time. Eight more were to follow.
En sagokrans (A garland of fairy tales) by Helena Nyblom
Åhlen och Åkerlund, 1918
The cover shows a "Huldra", a siren of the woods, and illustrates one of the fairy tales in the book. Although the painting is circularly cropped and the signature is hidden, the Tenggren mark is fully visible. Thanks to the Kerlan catalog this very scarce book could be discovered. Else it would probably have been lost in oblivion.

måndag 30 september 2013

Saturday Evening Post cover

Some weeks ago I spent four days with the Tenggren holdings at the Kerlan Collection by the University of Minnesota, MN. I was there to do research for my Tenggren biography, which is planned to be released autumn 2014. I had the opportunity to browse through a number of interesting items of Tenggren’s, among these this little folder from the Saturday Evening Post from September 1956, presumably an in-house staff publication. Also in November 1956, the famous Tenggren cover for Saturday Evening Post with Walt Disney on the train was published, illustrating Diane Disney Miller’s article “My dad Walt Disney”. The folder describes the process of the cover from idea to finished painting.

It’s great to see Ken Stuart’s sketches for the various cover ideas, compared with Tenggren’s final well-known artwork. Especially the little addition of Jiminy Cricket is fun to learn about.
The finished cover

torsdag 26 september 2013

Alternate Thumbelina

Here's some more findings from the Kerlan Collection.
 Tenggren's Thumbelina was published by Simon and Schuster in 1953 as the first in a series of Tenggren fairy tales. It features marvelous paintings in the jazzy, decorative style that Tenggren used through the fifties. For those of you already familiar with this Little Golden Book it might be fun to see this alternate cover.

Tenggren's Thumbelina

Little Golden Books, 
Simon and Schuster 1953.
Copyright Random Books

Alternate cover for Tenggren's Thumbelina

By courtesy of Kerlan collection of the
University of Minnesota Libraries with permissions
from the Archives and Special Collections
In this first cover proposal we see a girl on top of the swallow but the style is quite different from the final cover. This year Tenggren produced another Little Golden Book, The Topsy Turvy Circus and it looks as if he fetched this girl from that French-inspired story. There is also a great influence from Mary Blair in the rendering. Mary Blair was one of Tenggren's colleagues at the Character Model Department at Disney's Studio and made a great row of Little Golden Books for Simon and Schuster.
Other books in the Tenggren Fairy Tale series were Jack and the Beanstalk in 1953, The Golden Goose in 1954, The giant with the Three Golden Hairs in 1955, and Snow White and Rose Red in 1957. More books in this series was planned: The Goose Girl and The Magic Snuffbox were two of those who never reached the book shelves but remain as sketch dummies in the Kerlan Collection.

tisdag 24 september 2013

Book project starts up i Minneapolis

Lars Emanuelsson and Oskar Ekman, writers of the Gustaf Tenggren biography
Now it's official: the biography on Gustaf Tenggren is scheduled to be published in August 2014. Co-writer/editor will be Oskar Ekman. The first edition will be in Swedish, but hopefully an English edition will follow within shortly. The publisher is Kartago, a company within the Bonnier Group.
The other week we spent four days at the Elmer L Anderson Library at University of Minneapolis, MN. The University has an enormous archive where a whole lot of documents from all over USA is deposited.
The Tenggren Papers are held within The Kerlan Collection, a collection of children's literature related items, such as books, art, letters and manuscript. It's all part of the Children's Literature Research Center, a world-renowned treasure chamber for knowledge on children's literature.
Curator Lisa von Drasek and me holding an original
Poky Little Puppy illustration. In the background is the
founder of the Kerlan Collection, Dr. Irvin Kerlan.
We were very well received by the curator, Lisa von Drasek, who took us on a tour around the gigantic archive premises. During the four days we browsed through 40 - 50 boxes of Tenggren art and photographed hundreds of documents. I selected 67 pieces of art to be scanned, so the book will feature first class reproductions of many of the great LGB illustrations.
The tour from Sweden to USA was well worth the effort: the holdings of the archive is vast. Almost the total production of original artwork produced by Gustaf Tenggren after WWII were donated by Gustaf's widow, Mollie Tenggren when she died in 1984. Along with that a whole lot of other documents can be browsed, like unpublished proposals, sketches, brochures, clippings and such.
Keep an eye on this blog and I'll try to show some of the fantastic stuff we found in this great treasure chest of Tenggreniana.
My previous Gustaf Tenggren News blog will be discontinued and this one will hold the news from now on.