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Ludwig Bemelmans (American, 1898-1962)


Beloved by three generations of young readers, Ludwig Bemelmans is best known for his Madeline books. What many may not know is that Bemelmans, born in the Austrian Tyrol, considered himself more an artist than an author. Bemelmans' family relocated several times during his childhood, resulting in his fluency in three languages (French, German, and English) by the age of 18. Arriving in New York in 1914, he worked his way up through the hotel industry. When war broke out, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, becoming a naturalized United States citizen in 1918. He returned to the hotel industry after the war, opening his own restaurant.

Bemelmans began writing in 1934 with the introduction of Hansi, his first of 15 children's books. His diverse language base gave him a unique and quirky style of writing that children adored. His watercolor illustrations belied a simplistic style that partnered well with his sophisticated verse. Until his death in 1962, he wrote an average of one to two books per year. In addition to his juvenile fiction, his literary works included screenplays, adult novels, and stories. Bemelmans was a contributor to Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and the New Yorker, among others. His book Madeline's Rescue was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1953.

As an artist, Ludwig Bemelmans designed a Broadway set, completed several Hollywood projects, illustrated for the cover of the New Yorker, and painted several murals. His art can be found at New York's Carlyle Hotel, the Museé National d'Art in Paris, France, and in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. His character Madeline, the spunky heroine of Bemelmans' classic five book series, celebrates her 75th anniversary this year.

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