Tomi ungerer was one of the few artists who could inspire adults as well as children. In 2016, a book was published that brings together the two lines through his work: "why am i not you??" In it, ungerer answered children's philosophical questions – and fascinated them with subversive humor and the freedom of thought. Alsatian artist died on saturday night. He turned 87.
Children between the ages of three and twelve ask, for example, "why is there money??", "what is it: time?" Or "can you still think when you are dead?" Ungerer's answers are mostly stories, they take children seriously, even at the risk of overtaxing them. Many of the answers are actually for the parents, who are now better able to respond to their children's questions.
Ungerer: picture books for children, cartoons for adults
The two basic lines of the philosophy book characterize his entire, extraordinarily extensive oeuvre: on the one hand, he created wonderfully poetic, funny, even cheeky picture books for children, in which the uncanniness of life shines through again and again. On the other hand, he drew cartoons for adults, and even in the friendlier ones, the satirical often turns into a merciless look at people who torment each other. In books like "the party or "babylon the biting caricature rises to an apocalyptic vision.
Mourning the self-destruction of the human being
Nevertheless, ungerer is not a sadist. Behind these drawings lies despair and grief over the self-destruction of the human being. But there are also counter-images: "the coarse songbook" for instance, on which he worked for five years, perhaps his main work. It is a collection of german folk and children's songs accompanied by many drawings – a kind of backward-looking utopia of a world that is still intact, the motifs of which he found in his home country of alsace. Ungerer also wrote the song "ich hatt' einen kameraden" ("I had a comrade") photographed and illustrated with crosses of a military cemetery.
1957 was the year of decision for ungerer
Jean thomas ungerer, called tomi, was taken on 28. Born in strabburg in november 1931. He dropped out of high school, hitchhiked through europe, and finally began studying art in strabburg in 1953. He worked as a window dresser, made many trips, the most important in 1956 to new york.
1957 was the decisive year for him: he established himself as a draftsman and was published in "esquire", "life" and the "new york times printed. His first children's book, "the mellops go flying," was also printed appeared in 1957. In the same year he met the young publisher daniel keel, all his books have since been published by keel's diogenes publishing house in zurich. Keel died in 2011, ending a friendship that had lasted for decades.
Ungerer's artistic career went steeply upward, with numerous successful books, exhibitions, awards. In 1993 he was awarded the federal cross of merit, and in 1995 he received the french grand national prize. In 2007 the musee tomi ungerer in strabburg was opened.
"A rascal with a taste for provocation"
In 2018, the state of baden-wurttemberg awarded him an honorary professorship. Prime minister winfried kretschmann (grune) praises his commitment to friendship between the germans and the french. At the same time, he was impressed by ungerer's inexhaustible creative power and his fearlessness to be outrageous. Ungerer has "always remained a rascal who has never lost the desire to provoke", said kretschmann.
As unger's fame grew, he retreated from the metropolises to the provinces. In 1970 he went to nova scotia in canada, in 1976 to the southwest of ireland, where he lived since then alternating with strabburg. He also supported social activities, the fight against aids, the red cross, initiatives for animal welfare. As a convinced pacifist, he has repeatedly taken a stand against war. One of his posters shows a dead u.S. Soldier, underneath the question: "what now??".
Ungerer published three autobiographical books
Among unger's most recent publications are three autobiographical books in which the interplay of text and image is particularly fascinating. In the volume "once upon a time there was my father" he reconstructed the life of his father theo ungerer, who had died young and was a famous master watchmaker. In "the thoughts are free – my childhood in the elsass" he told about the years of the second world war under german occupation and the first time afterwards.
And "here today gone tomorrow invoking canadian nova scotia, where ungerer and his family lived among farmers and fishermen. The images from this almost archaic world keep the balance between magic and realism.