Skip to content
Back to List

Laurent de Brunhoff

Laurent de Brunhoff (b. 1925, Paris, France – d. 2024, Key West, FL) was the acclaimed author and artist of Babar the Elephant books. The classic series started as a bedtime story first invented and told by Laurent’s mother, Cécile de Brunhoff, and was later illustrated in book form by his father, Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937). Jean de Brunhoff’s The Story of Babar, was published in 1931. After completing only six books, Jean died in 1937 and Laurent, then only 13 years old, colored and designed the cover illustration for the publication of his father’s seventh and last book. Laurent went on to study art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and lived in Paris, working as an abstract painter. In 1946, at the age of 21, Laurent brought Babar back to life in his own first Babar book, Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur. Laurent has since written and illustrated more than 60 Babar books, which have become global cultural phenomenon. His most recent book is Babar in Paris, which was published in 2017.

Mary Ryan Gallery is the exclusive representative for Laurent de Brunhoff’s art including all Babar published watercolor illustrations, studies and drawings. The gallery has organized numerous traveling museum exhibitions of his work and held solo exhibitions in 1987, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

De Brunhoff has made eight original screen prints, all of which have been published by Mary Ryan Gallery. Original Babar manuscripts and artwork by Laurent and Jean are in the collection of The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Laurent de Brunhoff holds both French and American citizenship and was made an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

Laurent’s work has been featured in several exhibitions at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (1989-90), Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Baltimore Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, among others (1983-84) and the Centre Culturel du Marais in Paris (1981), among others. There have been solo exhibitions of Laurent’s work at many museums throughout America, several organized by Mary Ryan Gallery, recently at the Customs House Museum in Key West, FL; the Dixon Gallery in Memphis, TN; the Speed Museum in Atlanta, GA; and the Davison Center of Wesleyan University, Middlebury, CT.

In 2016, Harvard University’s Houghton Library held a solo exhibition of Babar works. The university further commissioned an illustration entitled ABC de Babar. In 2012, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris held major Babar exhibitions of Laurent and Jean’s work, accompanied by a catalogue, Les Histories de Babar, published with contributions from both museums and organized by curator Dorothée Charles.

In 2008, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York mounted a major exhibition of original drawings and manuscripts by Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, for which a catalogue was published, Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors by Christine Nelson, including an essay by Adam Gopnik, which was also published in The New Yorker. The work of Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff has also been the subject of books by Anne Hildebrand, Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff: The Legacy of Babar (New York: Twayne, 1991) and by Nicholas Fox Weber, The Art of Babar (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989).
Read more