Jean de Brunhoff
was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
writer and illustrator known for creating the Babar
Babar the Elephant is a French children's fictional character who first appeared in Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931 and enjoyed immediate success. An English language version, entitled The Story of Babar, appeared in 1933 in Britain and also in the United States. The book is based on...
books, the first of which appeared in 1931. He was the fourth and youngest child of Maurice de Brunhoff, a publisher, and his wife Marguerite. He attended Protestant schools, including the prestigious Ecole Alsacienne. Brunhoff joined the army and reached the front lines when World War I was almost over. Afterwards, he decided to be a professional artist and studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière
The Académie de la Grande Chaumière is an art school in the VIe arrondissement of Paris, France. The school was founded in 1902 by the Swiss Martha Stettler , who refused to teach the strict academic rules of painting of the École des Beaux-Arts. It opened the way to the "Art Indépendant"...
in Paris. In 1924 he married Cécile Sabouraud
Cecile de Brunhoff was a French storyteller and the co-creator of the Babar stories. Cecile de Brunhoff was also a classically trained pianist....
, a talented pianist, and they had two sons Laurent
Laurent de Brunhoff is an author and illustrator, known primarily for continuing the Babar series of children's books, created by his father, Jean de Brunhoff....
and Mathieu in 1925 and 1926 and then a third son, Thierry, was born nine years later.
The Babar books began as a bedtime story Jean's wife told their children, Mathieu and Laurent, when they were four and five years old, respectively. She was trying to comfort Mathieu, who was sick. The boys liked the story of the little elephant who left the jungle for a city resembling Paris so much that they took it to their father, a painter, and asked him to illustrate it. He turned it into a picture book, with text, which was published by a family-run publishing house, Le jardin des modes
. After the first book Histoire de Babar
(The Story of Babar
), six more titles followed before de Brunhoff died of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...
at the age of 37. He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
After Jean's death, his brother Michel de Brunhoff, who was the editor of French Vogue
, oversaw the publication in book form of his two last books, Babar and His Children
and Babar and Father Christmas
, both of which had been done in black and white for a British newspaper, The Daily Sketch
. Michel de Brunhoff arranged for the black and white drawings to be painted in color, drafting the then-thirteen-year-old Laurent to do some of the work. The French publishing house Hachette
Hachette Livre, , is a French publisher, the flagship imprint of Lagardère Publishing. It was founded in 1826 by Louis Hachette as a bookshop and publishing company. Hachette has its headquarters in the 15th arrondissement of Paris....
later bought the rights to the Babar series. The first seven Babar albums were reprinted and millions of copies were sold all around the world.
Soon after the end of World War II, Laurent, who had followed in his father's footsteps as a painter and had also studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiėre, began work on a Babar book of his own. Although his style of painting was different from his father's and he emphasized picture more than text in the creation of his books, he trained himself to draw elephants in strict accord with the style of his father. Consequently many people did not notice any difference in authorship and assumed the six-year gap in the series was because of the war. Laurent has always been careful to emphasize that Babar was his father's creation (and to some extent his mother's) and that he continued the series largely as a way of keeping his father and his own childhood alive.
Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, Babar's Anniversary Album: Six Favorite Stories
, with an Introduction by Maurice Sendak and family photos and captions by Laurent de Brunhoff (New York: Random House, 1981). Sendak's introduction reprinted in Sendak's Caldecott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures
(New York: Noonday Press, 1990).
Ann Hildebrand, Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff: The Legacy of Babar
(New York: Twayne, 1991).
Christine Nelson, Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors
(New York: The Morgan Library and Museum, 2008).
Nicholas Fox Weber, The Art of Babar
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989).