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Tomi Ungerer (born 1931)
The Electric Circus (New York)
The Electric Circus—The Ultimate Legal Entertainment Experience, 1969
offset lithograph
71 x 56 cm (28 x 22 in.)
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Among the most prolific of illustrators, Ungerer has devised drawings for irreverent childrenís books, as well as civil rights and political posters. While he says that he does not believe that art or posters can change peopleís minds, he continues to make protest and advocacy posters. In his years in the United States after he left war-scarred Europe, he found support for his work as an illustrator in New York City's Jewish community, which offered him commissions and other opportunities.


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Biography of Tomi Ungerer

Born in Strasbourg, France, Ungerer has lived and worked in a number of places in Europe and North America. After spending World War II in Nazi-occupied Alsace, he briefly attended the École des Arts Décoratifs there. Ungerer has stated that living under Nazi rule, combined with the death of his father when he was three, accounts for the dark nature of much of his work. From 1956 to the late 1960s he lived in New York; since then, he has resided in Nova Scotia, Strasbourg, and Ireland, among other places.

Ungerer's versatility has earned him enormous fame during the last quarter century. In addition to extensive advertising work for a number of commercial firms in Europe and America, he has written and illustrated scores of books for adults and children, such as The Three Robbers, and has executed paintings and sculptures and worked in television and publishing. The recipient of numerous graphic design awards, Ungerer has exhibited his work on three continents, including a 1981 retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Ungerer has been linked to the tradition of earlier social commentators in the visual arts. His dark, biting, often bleakly humorous satire has drawn inevitable comparisons with William Hogarth, Honoré Daumier, and George Grosz. Although his range of influences is broad, from Albrecht Duhrer to Japanese artists such as Hokusai, Ungerer has referred to himself as a "street artist," recording the complexity and degradation of modern society in an unmistakable, spare, yet insistently biting drawing style.

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