GUSTAF TENGGREN

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This one is for Bill Peckman

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Gustaf Tenggren was born on November 3, 1896 in the parish of Magra in Vastergotland, western Sweden. His parents Aron and Augusta had seven children and Gustaf was the second youngest of them. In 1913 he received a scholarship to study painting at Valand, the art school in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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After his first exhibition in 1920, Tenggren
left Sweden and moved to Cleveland,
Ohio
, in the United States,
where his two sister had already settled, and from there, in 1922, to New York City. By 1923,
he was illustrating children’s book during the heyday of
illustrated books by illustrators such as Arthur
Rackham
and Kay Nielsen. In 1923, Tenggren’s work appeared e.g.
in new releases of Tanglewood Tales and A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys,
as well as in The Christ Story for Boys and Girls by Abraham
Rihbany
. From 1923 to 1939, Tenggren worked for the game company Milton Bradley

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in 1936, he was hired by The Walt Disney Company, to work as a chief illustrator with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the popular feature-length movie originated in 1934 when Walt Disney decided to re-create the romantic fairy tale. Snow White was the first American feature-length animated film. Tenggren gave Snow White an “Old World” look that Walt Disney sought. His Rackham-style trees featured prominently in the forest scenes. He later worked with productions such as Bambi and Pinocchio, as well as backgrounds and atmospheres of films such as The Ugly Duckling and The Old Mill. His work throughout Snow White and in many of the richly detailed urban backgrounds of Pinocchio are obviously drawn upon his Scandinavian heritage and experience.

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Although his work for Disney was still in the Rackham fairy-tale illustration style, after he left the studio in 1940, he never painted that way again. From 1942 to 1962, Tenggren worked for Little Golden Books with illustrations for children’s books such as Tawny Scrawny Lion; Little Black Sambo and The Poky Little Puppy, which became the single all-time best-selling hardcover children’s book in English.

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After he moved to the United States in 1920, he never returned to Sweden again. Gustaf Tenggren died in 1970 at Dogfish Head in Southport, Maine.

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Homeward bound.

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