Cartoonist, illustrator, writer, screenwriter
Jean Thomas (Tomi) Ungerer was born on 28th November 1931 in Strasbourg, in a family of clockmakers. He was deeply upset by his father’s death in 1935 and then, due to their precarious finantial situation, the family was forced to move to a little vilage called Logelbach, near Colmar. The quiet scenery that sorrounded it was a clear source for some of Ungerer’s work.
The other event that marked his childhood was the German ocupation of Alsace. During the war, Tomi’s school had to teach in German and his house was requisitioned by the German Army.
In 1945 Tomi became French again, but he find it difficult to adapt himself to a new teaching discipline. Thus he was expelled from school. From this period, Ungerer keeps a feeling against intolerance.
After his failure at school, difficult years began. He left his house and travelled to Laponia. In 1952 he did his military service in Spahir, Algeria, but fell ill and had to go back to Strasbourg, where he studied Arts Decoratifs. Yet again, he was expelled for lack of discipline.
In 1954 he got his start in advertisements and commerce. Very soon, the American artistic and cultural life atracted him and he befriended Steinberg, a draughtsman.
So in 1956, just with sisxty dollars in hand, Ungerer moved to United States. Ursula Nordstrom, working for Harper & Row, gave him an oportunity and the following year Ungerer had his first book published, The Mellops Go Flying. He began working for The New York Times and for television. A large part of his drawings are presented in The Underground Sketchbook (1964) or Der Herzinfarkt (1962), which denounce the morals and habits of his contemporaries. His posters against Vietnam War were sold all aorund the world. His books for adult readers gave him the good reputation of being one of the most important satiric and humour draughtsmen of the century.
In 1970, Tomy and his wife Yvonne Wright moved to Nova Scotia, Canada, where they lived in an isolated farm. There he takes back his Alsatian origins and writes Das Grosse Liederbuch, a successful compilation of German songs. He exhibited in France and Germany.
Since 1975, the Ungerers live in Ireland. In 1981, a retrospective exhibition of his drawings takes place in Strasbourg and in 1983, Ungerer is awarded with the title “Moraliste Impitoyable”.
Since 1980, he has been dedicating much time to enhancing Franco-German relations and to preserving the identity, the particularisms and the bilinguilism of Alsace.
In 1994, a compillation of his advertising work appears under the title of Affiches and also his erotic sketches, Das Liederliches Liderbuch. In 1995, he publishes all his texts and drawing about cats, Das Grosse Katzbuch.
Tomi Ungerer is still living in Ireland but he keeps a strong relationship with Alsace and his childhood days.