Gustaf Tenggren's World

Gustaf Tenggren
awarded member of
Society of Illustrators'
Hall of Fame 1917

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The book on Gustaf
Commercial art
Disney period
Golden Books
Dogfish Head
Image Gallery


Gustaf Tenggren: Autobiography.

This text was originally published in Muriel fuller's More Junior Authors, H. W. Wilson 1963.

My family lived in Gothenburg, Sweden, where I attended school with my brother and four sisters. I was born in Magra Socken in the home of my paternal grandparents. Summers were happily spent in the country, tagging along with my grandfather, who was a woodcarver and painter, and also a fine companion for a small boy. I never tired of watching him carve or mix the colors he used when commissioned to decorate, with typical primitive designs, churches and public buildings in the community.

Aware of my keen interest in drawing, a kind and understanding teacher, Anton Kellner, provided stuffed animals and other interesting subjects from which to draw and paint. When I was thirteen I passed a scholarship test in art and enrolled in evening classes. The following year I received a three-year scholarship and became a full-fledged art student attending day classes. This was the same school from which my father, also an artist, had graduated.

During vacations and spare time I painted portraits, illustrated for periodicals, but the most exciting work was painting scenery and helping to design settings for the theater in Gothenburg. Again a scholarship entitled me to three more years of study at the Valand School of Fine Arts. While still in school I was commissioned to illustrate my first book, Bland Tomtar och Troll.

I arrived in the United States in the early spring of 1920 and settled in Cleveland. Those were busy days, drawing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, painting six posters weekly for Keith's Palace Theater, fashion drawings for a department store, and at the same time working full time for an art studio. After two years of this heavy schedule I was ready for a change and decided to try my luck in New York. For many years my studio was in this great city. Work was plentiful and during this period I illustrated a number of children's books. My work at the Disney Studio (1936-1939) was an interesting experience. There I designed backgrounds, settings, characters, and worked out sequences for such pictures as Snow White, The Old Mill, Pinocchio, etc.

Since 1940, I have devoted my time to illustrating juvenile books. I find this work very rewarding as it seems to give so much pleasure to so many children. Traveling in Europe, Mexico and the width and breadth of the United States, sketching and painting, is my way of relaxing and having fun. Then back to the coast of Maine, where my wife and I have made our home in West Southport for the past twenty years and where living seems to be just right for us.
Gustaf Tenggren, self-portrait 1956