Gustaf Tenggren was born on November 3, 1896 in the parish of Magra in
Vastergotland, western Sweden. His parents Aron and Augusta had totally seven
children and Gustaf was the second youngest of them. Gustaf 's father,
Aron, was a painter and decorator, just like his father in turn, Johan
Teng. In 1898, the Tenggren family took south for Gothenburg, as the outcome on
the countryside had turned too insufficient. A one room flat in Garsa,
gothenburg, became their new home were, the year after their arrival, Gustaf's
younger brother Gunnar was born. Shortly after their arrival, Gustaf's father
left the family to try tio find work in the U.S.A., and the children were to
grow up without their father. Still after the move to Gothenburg, Gustaf spent
his first two years at school in Magra, where he also spent the summer holidays.
These years, dwelling closely to his grandfather, had a great influence on his
choice of occupation later on.
Rantorget in Gårda where the
Tenggren family lived after moving from Magra to Göteborg.
From eleven years of age, Gustaf had to contribute to the
family income by working as a runner boy and as an apprentice by a
lithographer's shop. But soon his artistic talent was observed, and he was
encouraged to attend an art school. A scholarship 1910 helped him to begin
the school for arts and crafts in Gothenburg, Slöjdföreningens skola, at only 13
years old while still keeping his day-time job. By autumn 1914 he received
a new scholarship and attended Valands Konstskola. While still at school
he got his first illustration commissions, and parallell to that he painted
decorations for the town theatre, Stora Teatern, and executed portrait
After John Bauer’s final job of illustrating Bland
Tomtar och Troll in 1915, president and owner of publishing company Åhlen och
Åkerlund’s, Erik Åkerlund, was in desperate need of a successor to the job.
Gustaf Tenggren had a try in 1917, got the job in 1918 and was to keep illustrating the album for eight more years, totaling
10 volumes, where Bauer only had made eight. The same year he married his
first wife, Anna Peterson, the sister of his best friend Rudolf Peterson, who later
became the father of Sweden's most loved comic characters, 91:an Karlsson.
ship Hellig Olav was on a regular trade between Kristiania (Oslo) and New York.
It held in Copenhagen, where Gustaf and Anna Tenggren came aboard in 1920
to go to the U.S.A.
In summer of 1920 Gustaf and Anna decided to leave for
the United States. They arrived in New York in August, and continued on to
Cleveland, Ohio where Gustafs's two sisters had already settled. After two
yars of hard work, they moved to
New York, where Gustaf's career really took off. The twenties in New York City
implied a tremendous progress for Gustaf Tenggren, both artistically and economically. In1930 he re-married to
a girl of Swedish origin, Malin or Mollie Froberg, and in 1929 when the Great
Depression hit the nation, they left New York for a more slow-paced life in
the rural surroundings of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County in upstate New York. Here they spent five years as farmers, keeping a horse, a cow, a pig, a dog, and 40 hens, until they finally went back to New York City in 1935.
In 1935 Gustaf Accepted an offer to work as a n Art
Director at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was currently under
production at Walt Disney's Studios in Los Angeles. For almost three years
he painted inspirational artwork to help the layout artists to find the
right mood for the actual scenes and backgrounds. His paintings had a major
influence on some central scenes, such as the interiors of the dwarfs’ cottage,
the queen’s laboratory, and the scenes in the woods where Snow White flees from
the hunter. He also contributed to Bambi, The
Ugly Duckling, Hiawatha and Fantasia.
But his greatest addition was to Pinocchio which at the largest part
obliged to Gustaf Tenggren for the design of environment, clothing and props.
After leaving the studio in 1939, parallell to other children's book
illustratiion commissions, he started to develop book projects of his own,
bearing his own trade mark, The Tenggren books.The first was The Tenggren Mother
Goose and it was followed by a number of similar compilations of folk tales and
traditional stories. At the same time, he began his engagement with The Golden
Press, producing a series of million-selling mass market picture books, among
them theWorld's most printed, The Poky Little Puppy
The mansion in Maine was originally a semn's homestead.
Gustaf and Mollie re-built it into a combined house and studio.
The later years of their lives, Mollie and Gustaf spent on theproperty they
bought 1944 at Dogfish Head, Southport, Maine. A collection of Swedish antiques
became a link to his motherland, which he never revisited. April 6th, 1970,
he died from lung cancer at the local hospital in West Southport, caused by
life-long smoking. Molle live for 12 more years and died in 1982. By then she
had taken the means of donating the collection of Gustaf's paintings and
illustration to University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Now it's integrated with
the Kerlan Collection, one of the World's greatest Children's literature
Self-portrait from Saturday
Evening Post 1956.
anthology More junior authors av Muriel Fuller was published. The Gustaf Tengren
article was a biographic text written by himself. It is the
only autobiography from his hand that is known.
Click to read Gustaf's