Leonard Weisgard, Caldecott award-winning illustrator of more than 200 children’s books was perhaps best known for his collaboration with the author Margaret Wise Brown.
Weisgard was born in New Haven, Connecticut but spent much of his early childhood in England, where his father originally came from.
His interest in the quality of children’s books began after his family moved back to the USA when he was 8. As a schoolboy in New York, he was dissatisfied with the books supplied by the public schools he attended. He found the illustrations monotonous and thought that the world could not be all that dreary and limited to only one color.
He went on to study art at the Pratt Institute and the New School for Social Research, where he was influenced by primitive cave paintings, Gothic and Renaissance art and avant-garde French illustrators of children’s books of the 1920s.
He used a wide range of colors and media in his books, including gouache, poster paint, crayon, chalk, decoupage, stenciling and pen and ink.
Leonard Weisgard also studied dance with Martha Graham and worked in the field of window display. He began his career making illustrations for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar.
Weisgard also collaborated with other children’s book writers and wrote books he illustrated himself, sometimes under the pseudonym “Adam Green".
Leonard Weisgard married Phyllis Monnot in 1951 and they had three children, Abigail (1952), Christina (1954) and Ethan (1957).
Leonard and Phyllis often worked together creating set and costume designs with Leonard sketching and Phyllis making patterns so the designs could become a reality. He designed the stage sets and costumes for several productions of the San Francisco Ballet, including The Dryad and The Nutcracker.
During the years he lived in Roxbury, Connecticut, Weisgard was deeply involved with children's education. He lectured extensively and worked closely with The American Library Association.
Leonard Weisgard moved to Denmark with his wife and children in 1969 where he lived for the rest of his life. His children and grandchildren - Ethan and Midoriko's son Yuji (1989) and daughter Nanami (1987) - all live in Copenhagen.
"Books, he once said in an interview, have always, for as long as I can recall, been a source of real magic in this wildly confusing world."
(Sources: The LA Times from the 24th of January, 2000 and The New York Times the 27th of January, 2000)