Jean de Brunhoff

French , 1899 - 1937

Jean de Brunhoff was best known for creating the Babar children’s books, which took the world by storm and have been in continuous publication ever since 1931. The Babar books began as a bedtime story that Jean’s wife Cécile de Brunhoff invented for their children, Mathieu and Laurent. The boys liked the story of the little elephant who left the jungle for a city resembling Paris so much that they took it to their father, a skilled painter of portraits and landscapes, and asked him to illustrate it. Jean turned it into a picture book, with text, which became The Story of Babar. Six more titles followed before Jean de Brunhoff died of tuberculosis at the age of 37. In 1946, at the age of 21, Jean’s son Laurent de Brunhoff (b.1925) wrote and illustrated his first Babar book, and has since completed over 50 Babar books.

Born in Paris, de Brunhoff came from a family of successful magazine and publishing professionals. His father Maurice ran a publishing house. His brothers, Michel and Jacques, were the editors of Paris Vogue and Le decor d’aujourd’hui, respectively. His sister, Cosette, was a photographer, whose husband ran Conde Nast’s Le Jardin des modes, where de Brunhoff’s first four Babar stories were published. Hachette and The Daily Sketch, a British newspaper, were among the first to publish additional Babar stories and illustrations.

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