Happy birthday, Ludwig Bemelmans!

“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines…”
Can you beat that for a wonderful first line?

ludwig-bemelmas-photo{image source}

“I rather give than to receive anyway.”


Happy (117th!) birthday to Madeline author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans!

I found out some things I didn’t know about him.

For instance, did you know…

1. Ludwig Bemelmans was born in Austria, he moved to New York at 16 years old.
2. Bemelmans started out working in restaurants and became a successful restauranteur. (See #5)
3. Bemelmans didn’t think about being a writer until a friend in the publishing industry happened to see his childlike drawings on the walls of his apartment, and suggested that he write and illustrate a children’s book.
4. Bemelmans took a sort of pride in being last and started a “Foundation for the Inept.” (Don’t you love that?!)
5. Bemelmans’ mural paintings decorate the walls of Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle in NYC. (See #2)

I came across this lovely excerpt from an unpublished essay of reflections on Bemelmans winning of the 1954 Caldecott Medal in Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline’s Creator by John Bemelmans Marciano: (Listen to how humble he was)

“The Caldecott medal, which was given me for Madeline’s Rescue, is the first award I have received in my life.

The announcement of the award filled me with apprehension. It would be extremely painful for me to step up and be presented with anything, and to listen to the words of praise said on such occasions would make me physically ill. It all dates back to childhood – being the champion left backer and the last boy in class I developed a kind of pride in my position at the end of the line. So much so, that some brewery money my grandfather left me in Bavaria, I have placed in a trust fund which pays annually a sum of money to the boy with the lowest marks in the school that I attended there.

I have in mind extending this prize to a dozen boys, and to go there and have our own graduation exercises, and after, a very fine sausage and kraut fest on the banks of the Danube with beer. Now being myself a donor of an annual award, the Ludwig Bemelmans Foundation for the Inept, I am content to stay as I am. I rather give than receive anyway.”

And give he has — the timeless character of Madeline still cherished 60 years later.

ludwigbemelmans sallylloyd-jones

And one last Did You Know?

Many of Bemelmans’ illustrations in the Madeline books were created with an ink and gouache technique — similar to Jane Dyer’s beautiful gouache and pencil pictures in my new book The House That’s Your Home.  {Get it on Amazon.} Which must just mean great artists think alike. (Oh and the quality I admire so much about Jane? She’s very humble as well.)

“– and that’s all there is — there isn’t any more.”