Around 1940, Gustaf Tenggren left the Disney Studios a changed man. It’s said that he gathered together the paintings he had created up to that point, piled them up in the street and set fire to them. With this single decisive act, he marked a turning point in his artistic career. He never painted in the classic European book illustrator style again. He had resolved himself to create a new style.
I really don’t know what brought him to that point. I’d love to know the full story. But you can clearly see the sharp dividing line between old and new in his work. In the first few years of the 1940s, Tenggren struggled to develop a new way of painting- a simplified style that depended on fundamental qualities like skillful composition, expressive texture and unique color harmonies, rather than photo-realistic detail and modeling techniques derived from classical easel painting. This book, along with its sequel Sing For America and the schoolbook reader Runaway Home would lead to the creation of the very first Little Golden Books… The Pokey Little Puppy, The Tawny Scrawny Lion and The Saggy Baggy Elephant. You know the rest of the story…
This book is far from representing Tenggren’s best work, but it’s an important example of a decisive turning point in Tenggren’s career. I’ll post some illustrations from Sing For America and Runaway Home soon.
All of us at Animation Resources wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.
This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.