Tomi Ungerer
Tomi Ungerer by Claude Truong-Ngoc (2014)
Tomi Ungerer by Claude Truong-Ngoc (2014)
BornJean-Thomas Ungerer
28 November 1931
Strasbourg, Alsace, France
Died9 February 2019(2019-02-09) (aged 87)
Cork, Ireland
OccupationArtist, illustrator, writer
Alma materMunicipal School for Decorative Arts (Strasbourg)
GenreChildren's picture books, erotic literature
Notable works
Notable awardsCommander of the Legion d'Honneur (2018)
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration (1998)
RelativesTheodore Ungerer (father)
Alice Ungerer (mother)
Bernard (brother)
Edith (sister)
Vivette (sister)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer (28 November 1931 – 9 February 2019) was an Alsatian artist and writer.[1][2] He published over 140 books ranging from children's books to adult works and from the fantastic to the autobiographical. He was known for sharp social satire and witty aphorisms. Ungerer is also famous as a cartoonist and designer of political posters and film posters. [3]

Ungerer received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1998 for his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator.[4][5]


Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in Alsace, France,[6] the youngest of four children to Alice (Essler) and Theo Ungerer.[7][8] The family moved to Logelbach, near Colmar, after the death of Tomi's father, Theodore—an artist, engineer, and astronomical clock manufacturer—in 1936. Ungerer also lived through the German occupation of Alsace when the family home was requisitioned by the Wehrmacht.[9][10]

As a young man, Ungerer was inspired by the illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, particularly the work of Saul Steinberg.[11][12] In 1957, the year after he moved to the U.S., Harper & Row published his first children's book, The Mellops Go Flying, and his second, The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure; by the early 1960s he had created at least ten children's picture books with Harper, plus a few others, and had illustrated some books by other writers. He also did illustration work for publications including The New York Times, Esquire, Life, Harper's Bazaar, The Village Voice,[12] and for television during the 1960s, and began to create posters denouncing the Vietnam War.[9]

Maurice Sendak called Moon Man (1966) "easily one of the best picture books in recent years."[13] After Allumette: A Fable, subtitled With Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce in 1974, he ceased writing children's books, focusing instead on adult-level books, many of which focused on sexuality. He eventually returned to children's literature with Flix 1998. Ungerer donated many of the manuscripts and artwork for his early children’s books to the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.[14]

One consistent theme in Ungerer's illustrations is his support for European construction, beginning with Franco-German reconciliation in his home region of Alsace, and in particular European values of tolerance and diversity. In 2003, he was named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the 47-nation Council of Europe.[15]

The Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg

In 2007, his home town dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.[13]

Ungerer divided his time between Ireland, where he and his wife had moved in 1976,[9][16] and Strasbourg.[13] In addition to his work as a graphic artist and 'drawer', he was also a designer, toy collector and "archivist of human absurdity."[13]

A biographical documentary film, Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, was produced in 2012. The film was featured at the 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival.[17] In 2015–2016, the Kunsthaus Zurich and the Museum Folkwang in Essen devoted a large exhibition to Ungerer's artistic oeuvre and in particular his collages.[18] A comprehensive book has been published by Philipp Keel from Diogenes with essays by Tobias Burg, Cathérine Hug and Thérèse Willer.[19]

Ungerer died on 9 February 2019 in Cork, Ireland, aged 87.[6][20][21]


Tomi Ungerer described himself first and foremost as a story teller and satirist. Prevalent themes in his work include political satire (such as drawings and posters against the Vietnam War and against animal cruelty), eroticism, and imaginative subjects for children's books.[9] Ungerer's publications are held by the German National Library, including:[22]

Children's books

Adult books

  • Horrible. An account of the Sad Achievements of Progress
  • Der Herzinfarkt (1962)
  • The Underground Sketchbook (1964)
  • The Party (1966)
  • Fornicon (1969)
  • Tomi Ungerer's Compromises (1970)
  • Poster Art of Tomi Ungerer (1972)
  • America (1974)
  • Totempole (1976)
  • Babylon (1979)
  • Cat-Hater's Handbook, Or, The Ailurophobe's Delight (1981) — co-authored by William Cole
  • Symptomatics (1982)
  • Rigor Mortis (1983)
  • Slow Agony (1983)
  • Heute hier, morgen fort (1983)
  • Far out Isn't Far Enough (1984)
  • Femme Fatale (1984)
  • Schwarzbuch (1984)
  • Joy of Frogs (1985)
  • Warteraum (1985)
  • Schutzengel der Hölle (1986)
  • Cats As Cats Can (1997)
  • Tomi: A Childhood Under the Nazis (1998)
  • Liberal Arts: The Political Art of Tomi Ungerer (1999)
  • Erotoscope (2002)
  • De père en fils (2002)

Other works

The Fontaine de Janus on Place Broglie