Biography

Tomi Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in Alsace in 1931.

Tomi has lived and worked in Strasbourg, New york, Canada and Ireland and his work has been widely acclaimed with numerous honours and awards, including:

- Legion d'Honneur France (1990)
- Order of the Deutsches Bundesverdienstdreuz Germany (1993)
- National Prize for Graphic Arts France (1995)
- Hans Christian Andersen Prize for children's literature (1998)
- European Prize for Culture (1999)
- Officer of the Legion d'Honneur France (2000)
- Named Goodwill Ambassador for Childhood and Education of  Council of Europe (2003)
- Erich Käistner Literary Prize (2004)
- Awarded an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Karlsruhe (2004)

Read Tomi's full biography below

Tomi Ungerer 19311931
Jean-Thomas Ungerer, aka Tomi, is born in Strasbourg on November 28, the son of Alice (nee Essler) and artist, historian, engineer and astronomical clock manufacturer Theodore. A brother Bernard, eight years older and two sisters – Edith and Vivette, precede him.

Tomi Ungerer 19351935
After the death of her husband, Madame Ungerer and her four children move to Logelbach, near Colmar.

Tomi’s drawings from 1939 – 1945 bear witness to his wartime experiences.

Tomi Ungerer 13931939-1948
In 1940, Alsace is annexed by the Germans, and Tomi undergoes Nazi indoctrination at his school in Colmar where French is forbidden. In winter 1944/45, he sees at first hand the battle to liberate the Colmar pocket, the last German Bridge head over the Rhine. His drawings from the time bear witness to these wartime experiences. French teaching is reinstated in schools. Speaking Alsation is banned at school.
Tomi joins the boy scouts and his Carnets (Notebooks) tell of numerous bicycle trips made throughout France.

Tomi Ungerer 19501950-51
After failing the second part of the Baccalauréat exam (in a school report, his headmaster describes him as a “willfully perverse and subversive individualist”), Tomi decides to hitchhike to the North Cape. In Lapland, he crosses the Russian lines. His drawings of the period are influenced by existentialism.

Tomi Ungerer 19521952-53
He joins the Méharistes (French Camel Corps) in Algeria, but is discharged after falling seriously ill. In October 1953 he goes to the Municipal School for Decorative Arts in Strasbourg. Tomi is kindly asked to leave after one year.

In 1954 – 55 Tomi became increasingly interested in the US.

Tomi Ungerer 19541954-55
Increasingly interested in the US, he starts visiting the American Cultural Centre and befriends American Fulbright students. He travels widely across Europe (to Iceland, Norway, Yugoslavia and Greece), hitchhiking and working on cargo vessels. Between trips Tomi earns a living as a window dresser and advertising artist for local businesses.

Tomi Ungerer 19561956
Tomi sets out for New York with 60 dollars in his pocket and what he later describes as a “trunk full of drawings and manuscripts”.

Ursula Nordstrom 19571957
He meets the children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom at Harper and Row who publishes his first children’s book The Mellops go Flying. It is an immediate, award winning success. He does his first advertising campaign for Burroughs machines but also collaborates with numerous magazines such as Esquire, Life, Holiday, Harper’s, Sport’s Illustrated and The New York Times.

Tomi Ungerer 19581958 – 62
Tomi completes the Mellops series and publishes many other books for children, including Crictor, Adelaide, Emil, The Three Robbers and Rufus, which win numerous prizes, as well as satirical books like Horrible and The Underground Sketchbook. He begins a long-term collaboration with Daniel Keel of Zurich-based publisher Diogenes Verlag who has since become his main publisher.

Tomi Ungerer 19621962
He holds his first major exhibition in Berlin where he meets Willy Brandt and Günther Grass. Tomi becomes busily engaged in the Civil Rights movement against segregation and the Vietnam War. He publishes numerous posters which are notable for their radical stance.

Tomi Ungerer 19661966-67
(Self)Publication of The Party, a book in which Tomi expresses his aversion towards New York elite society as well as Fornicon. Tomi becomes the food editor for Playboy magazine. He is commissioned to create sculptures for the Canadian World’s Fair Pavilion. He rents a studio in Montreal where with Gordon Sheppard and Francois D’Allegret he created “The Wild Oats” a movie company.

Tomi-1970-731970-73
Tomi gets married and moves to Nova Scotia in Canada where they start farming; an experience he later describes in Far Out isn’t Far Enough and Slow Agony. (1983)

In 1972 Tomi does drawings for the election campaign of Willy Brandt’s SPD party. Percy Adlon films Tomi Ungerer’s Landleben in Canada.

Tomi meets Robert Pütz with whom he will collaborate on numerous advertising campaigns.

Tomi Ungerer 19751975
Tomi renews his links with Alsace by donating a substantial part of his work and his toy collection to the Musées de Strasbourg. He illustrates Das Grosse Liederbuch, a collection of popular German songs which sells well over a million copies.

Tomi Ungerer 19761976
He moves permanently with his family to the Republic of Ireland.

Tomi Ungerer 19791979
Publication of the satirical works Babylon and Potitrics, also Abracadabra, a collection of advertising work done jointly with Robert Putz in Germany.

Tomi Ungerer 19811981
Retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Louvre) in Paris celebrates 25 years of Tomi Ungerer’s career. The exhibition moved to Munich where there were over 120,000 visitors, then to Düsseldorf, Hambourg Dublin and the Royal Festival Hall in London where one third of the show was closed down having met with strong objections.

Tomi Ungerer 19821982
Tomi is made a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters and is appointed Chargé de Mission by Jack Lang the French Minister of Culture.

Tomi films for Channel 4 (GB) with Celia Lowenstein a documentary called Fascination Fascism.

The Schwarzbuch is published by Stern and is awarded the prize of best political book of the year in Germany.

Tomi Ungerer 19831983
The Goethe Foundation in Basle awards him the Jacob Burckhardt prize.

Tomi Ungerer 19861986
After frequent trips to Hamburg, he draws and writes a book about the life of professional dominas called Schutzengel der Holle / The Guardian Angels of Hell.

Tomi Ungerer 19871987
Tomi is appointed Chargé de Mission by the French Ministry of Education.

Tomi Ungerer 19881988
He designs the Janus Aqueduct in Strasbourg, a monument celebrating 2000 years of the city’s existence and symbolizing its dual culture.

Tomi Ungerer 19901990
Tomi is awarded the Legion d’Honneur in Paris. He creates the Kultur Bank to promote Franco-German cultural exchanges. Tomi joins the interministerial board for Franco-German Relations, headed by the minister André Bord.

He publishes Amnesty Animal and he is made honorary president of the European SPCA.

Tomi Ungerer 19911991
Publication of À la Guerre Comme À La Guerre (Later published in English as Tomi, A Childhood Under the Nazis), a memoir of his experiences during World War 2 under the occupation of the Nazis.

Tomi donates another 4500 drawings and his collection of 2500 antique toys to the city of Strasbourg.

Tomi Ungerer 19921992-93
The American Biographical Institute lists him as one of “500 World Leaders of Influence”. He takes part in numerous humanitarian operations such as for the French Red Cross against AIDs and for Amnesty International.

He is awarded the Order of the Deutsches Bundesverdienstdreuz for his work in the field of Franco-German relations.

Tomi Ungerer 19941994
Publication of Poster, a collection of all his advertising work.

Tomi Ungerer 19951995
In France, he is awarded the National Prize for Graphic Arts by the Ministry of Culture.

Tomi Ungerer 19961996
A colloquium is devoted to his work at the National Library in France.

Tomi Ungerer 19971997
Publication of Flix, Tomi’s first children’s book since 1970.

Tomi Ungerer 19981998
He is awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, the most prestigious children’s literature prize. An evening is devoted to his work on Arte, the renowned Franco-German television arts channel.

Tomi Ungerer 19991999
He is awarded the European prize for Culture. He designs a kindergarten in the shape of a cat for the city of Karlsruhe.

Tomi Ungerer 20002000
Tomi is promoted to Officer of the Legion d’Honneur.

Tomi Ungerer 20012001
Tomi exhibits in Tokyo at the Itabashi Art Museum.

Taschen publishes Erotoscope, a large collection of his erotic work to commemorate his 70th birthday.

He has an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Strasbourg entitled Tomi Ungerer et New York.

Le Nuage Bleue is made into an animated film.

Tomi Ungerer 20022002
Tomi and Freddie Raphael create the European Centre of Yiddish Culture.

Tomi Ungerer 20032003
Tomi donates his private collection of over 3000 documents about fascism and its origins to the Bibliothèque Departementale du Bas Rhin.

As Ambassador for the Region of Alsace, he is decorated with the Cross of Baden Wurttemberg.

Tomi is named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the Council of Europe and he drafts the Declaration of Children’s Rights.

Tomi Ungerer 20042004
Tomi is awarded the Erich Käistner Literary Prize.

He is awarded an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Karlsruhe.

Tomi Ungerer 20072007
Tomi donates his personal library of over 1500 volumes, which were incorporated into the Tomi Ungerer museum which opened this same year. The Tomi Ungerer Museum in Strasbourg is unique because it is the first time in French history that a government-funded museum has been established on behalf of a living artist. It was financed by the City of Strasbourg and the French Ministry of Culture. With a stock of over 8000 drawings, the museum changes its exhibit every 4 months and is curated by Dr. Therese Willer.

A full-length animated movie of The Three Robbers comes out in Cinemas in France and Germany.

Tomi-20082008
Tomi is awarded the Franco-German prize for Journalism in Berlin and the Prize of the Berlin Academy presented by the eminent German art critic Werner Speis.

Tomi has a Retrospective Exhibition including his new sculptures at the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl near Cologne.

Musee Tomi Ungerer Strasbourg2009
The Tomi Ungerer Museum is chosen by a Council of Europe Architectural Commission as one of the top ten museums in Europe.