Archive for the ‘tenggren’ Category

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Illustration: Gustaf Tenggren and the Genesis of the Golden Book Style

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookIn the twenties, Gustav Tenggren had been paid handsomely for his work. At Disney, his position guaranteed steady work. But the wartime economy changed all that. Publishers were no longer able to pay him to work a week or more on a single painting and jobs were scarce. He was forced to simplify his style.

While at Disney, Tenggren chaffed under the bit of anonymity. It’s said that Walt instructed his artists, "If you’re going to sign a name to your artwork, spell it ‘Walt Disney’." But Tenggren defiantly maintained his individuality, signing many of his key paintings for Pinocchio. He left the studio under unhappy circumstances, and was bitter about the whole episode. But he had learned one thing from Walt… the power of branding one’s self.

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookTenggren resolved that he would never again waste his skills building a reputation for someone else. He boldly built his name into the masthead of his first major publication after leaving Disney. No longer was it Andersen’s Fairy Tales or Tales By The Brothers Grimm… It was The Tenggren Tell-It-Again Book. This led to a series of self-titled books sprinkled throughout his career… Tenggren’s Story Book, Tenggren’s Jack & The Beanstalk, Tenggren’s Bedtime Stories, Tenggren’s Farm Stories, and many others.

This particular book is amazing, because it shows Tenggen’s thought process and refinement gelling into what would become the classic "Golden Book style". (Click on the Three Little Pigs images above for a vivid example.) He simplifies by going back to his roots… combining the character designs of his mentor John Bauer with the colored pencil and watercolor style of his successor on the Bland Tomtar Och Troll series, Einar Norelius. It’s fascinating to compare this new streamlined style with the techniques of traditional golden age illustration. See how Tenggren has distilled the essence of the earlier attempts into a clear and simple presentation that still has plenty of beauty and balance.

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

For inspiration, Tenggen goes all the way back to his roots… the work of his mentor, John Bauer. Here is one of Tenggren’s illustrations…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

And here is one by Bauer from the Swedish Christmas annual, Bland Tomtar Och Troll

John Bauer

He also appears to be familiar with the work of his successor on the Bland Tomtar Och Troll series, Einar Norelius. Here is Tenggren…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

And here is Norelius…

Einar Norelius

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookBut halfway through Tenggren’s Tell It Again Book comes a huge breakthrough in design. Instead of the full page plates, Tenggren begins to float his characters over the white of the page, wrapping the text around the compositions. Background elements are reduced to small islands on the page, rather than extending out to the edges of a square bounding box. When I first got this book, I wondered why Tenggren had changed format halfway through. Clearly one reason was to save time and streamline the work of producing so many illustrations for a single book. But there was an aesthetic precedent to it as well. The answer has been hanging on my bedroom wall since I was a little boy!

Like Tenggren, my Grandmother was Swedish. In the early 1920s, she took my father to Sweden to visit his Grandparents. It was the only time he was able to meet them, since he lived in Peterborough, Canada, a very long sea voyage away from their farm in Goteborg, Sweden. My great grandparents gave my father a gift to take home with him to remind him of the visit- this Swedish folk art picture…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

When I was born, my father gave it to me to hang in my bedroom, and it’s been there ever since. Notice the similarity between the forward pitched perspective, the staging of the characters in clear profile silhouettes, and the simple rendering of the figures over the white of the paper on this print and the Tenggren illustrations that follow…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookTenggren had discovered a way to simplify and refine his illustrations even further. Instead of busy backgrounds full of details, he used just enough information to place the characters, and focused his attention on composing the figures. Immediately after publishing this book, Tenggren produced The Poky Little Puppy, the book that was the model for the hundreds of Little Golden Books that followed over the next seventy years. By going back to his roots and synthesizing his Swedish cultural upbringing, Tenggren invented a style that now seems to us to be quintessentially American.

This is a perfect example of how immigrant artists of all kinds suited their artistic voice to their new lives in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Carlo Vinci’s Italian heritage resulted in a superhero mouse who sang opera. Bill Tytla’s Eastern European roots helped him summon a devil in Fantasia. And Milt Gross’ Jewish upbringing expressed itself in comic celebrations of the ethnic vitality of New York City.

The melting pot of American culture sure is rich with cartoons!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Biography: Gustaf Tenggren

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Birth/Death

Birth: Nov. 3 1896
Death: April 9, 1970 in Dogfish Head, Maine

Occupation/Title

Illustrator

Bio Summary

Born Nov. 3, 1896 in Magda, Sweden his father left him in the hands of Teng Tenggren (Grandfather). His father went to the United States for work as a illustrator. At seventeen Gustaf went to Valand for painting instruction from 1913-1916. After which he worked on a Swedish folklore from 1917-1926. Moved to Cleveland in 1920 and moved to New York in 1922. (Canemaker 39)?Between 1923-1939 he worked in America for a commercial advertisement company and meanwhile, during the depression, in 1936, he worked for Disney; with such films as Bambi. (Santi)?Gustaf Tenggren left the Disney Company in Jan. 1939 with rumors of being disgruntled over the Snow White film. (Canemaker 42)?Jan. 1942-1962 Gustaf Tenggren works on several children’s books such as The Tawny Scrawny Lion and The Pokey Little Puppy (Canemaker 44)
1945 Gustaf moves to Maine for Solitude where he worked on his illustrations until he died on April 9th, 1970. (Canemaker 47)?Early Life/Family

Early Life/Family

Gustaf’s father was a decorative painter and he immigrated to America, leaving Gustaf in care of his Grandfather Teng. His grandfather was a decorative painter and woodcarver who became the boy’s surrogate father. (Canemaker 39)?Gustaf liked the supernatural forests of Magra and watched his grandfather restore the churches in the area in which woodcarvings of sculpted dwarfs were added to the pulpits and altars. (Canemaker 39)

Education/Training

At seventeen Gustaf won a scholarship to study painting at Valand, which was a famous art school in Gothenburg, Sweden. He studied painting there from 1913 to 1916. (Canemaker 40)

Career Outline

After painting school, Gustaf illustrated a popular annual of Swedish folklore and fairy tales called Bland Tomar och Troll (Among Elves and Trolls) (Canemaker 40)?In 1920 Gustaf Tenggren has his first art exhibit and then finally went to New York for a career as a illustrator. Between 1923-1939 Gustaf has placed his illustrations in American commercials in twenty-three books. (Canemaker 40)?During the depression Gustaf worked for Disney. He worked on several features such as Bambi and between features he helped work on the backgrounds and atmospheres of “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Old Mill”. On January 1939, Tenggren left Disney. (Canemaker 41)?Between 1942-1962 Gustaf Tenggren worked for Golden Books in which he worked on illustrations for twenty-eight books. (Canemaker 44)

Comments On Style

Tenggren used silhouetted figures with character faces that had huge noses that filled the faces. ?(Canemaker 39)?Influences ?An influence that was traced back by Mary T. Swanson was that Tenggren got influence from illustrator Arthur Rackham. (Canemaker 40)?Gustaf also had influences from nineteenth-century German and Norwegian folk tale illustrators. (Canemaker 40)

Influences

Personality

Independent personality but was often dramatic and moody. He had long hair and was often seen as a loner. (Canemaker 41)

Anecdotes

“He was arrogant. Part of him was into being a big shot, the most talented. He wouldn’t be interested in anything that was only halfway there. He didn’t like team effort. He didn’t like to be part of a group that was trying to style something. You want style? Come to him, he’ll style it for you.” (Frank Thomas) (Canemaker 41).

Miscellaneous

Tenggren had a problem with Alcohol and was involved in a scandal that involved the Niece of Milt Kahl.
Tenggren was known as a womanizer by a quote of Frank Thomas. “He was a womanizer, a chaser who liked the younger gals.” (Canemaker 44)?
Filmography

Background illustrator for “The Old Mill” (1937)
Background illustrator for “Little Hiawatha” (1937)
Illustrator for Snow White
Illustrator for Pinnocchio
Illustrator for Bambi?Background illustrator for “The little duckling” (1939)

Honors

Related Links

www.thesantis.com/who_who/illustrators___authors.htm

Bibliographic References

Canemaker, John Before the animation begins: the art and lives of Disney inspirational sketch artists New York. Hyperion 1996??Santi, Steve. Illustrators/Authors-Collecting Little Golden Books. Updated 10/1/06. Accessed 10/26/2006. www.thesantis.com

BIO-AAA-304

Contributors To This Listing

Alfredo Lozano

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