This summer, Thames & Hudson published Ludwig Bemelmans, the latest installment of their series, “The Illustrators.” Over 100 Bemelmans illustrations adorn the pages, interspersed with text by writer and curator Laurie Britton Newell. In addition to discussing Bemelmans’s distinguished career, the new volume also delves into the illustrator’s traumatic, peripatetic beginnings.
Bemelmans was born in Meran, inmodern-dayItaly, in 1898, in the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian empire. His Belgian father, Lampert, and German mother, Franciska, ran a hotel, and Lampert made paintings in his spare time. Bemelmans’s governess, Gazelle, taught the young boy French and showed him postcards of Paris. His childhood, fit for a Wes Anderson film, took a dark turn when Lampert absconded in 1904 with a mistress—despite the fact he’d left both Gazelle and Franciska pregnant. The nanny committed suicide and Franciska brought the family back to her parents’ home in Regensburg, Germany.