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Babar’s Guide to Paris: Original Watercolor Illustrations

Babar's Guide to Paris
Babar's Guide to Paris Exhibition, 2014

In Babar’s Guide to Paris, the youngest daughter of the family, Isabelle, prepares for her first visit to Paris alone. Babar shares his best tips for navigating the city and embracing the local French culture, suggesting not only which well-known sites not to miss but how to truly experience the city like a Parisian: walk everywhere, exchange ideas in a garden, become a regular at a restaurant and befriend the waiter. As Babar gives advice to Isabelle and readers alike, de Brunhoff’s watercolors blend Babar’s memories of the city and his imaginings of Isabelle’s upcoming adventures. Now 92, this is de Brunhoff’s first book set in Paris, the city of his birth and his home for many years.

The classic series began as a bedtime story invented by Laurent’s mother, Cecile de Brunhoff, and later realized as a book by his father, Jean de Brunhoff. Jean published and illustrated The Story of Babar in 1931, but he died in 1937 after completing six books. Laurent, then only 13 years old, colored and designed the cover illustration for the posthumous publication of his father’s seventh and final book. Laurent went on to study art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and work as an abstract painter in Montparnasse. In 1946, at age 21, Laurent brought Babar back to life in the first book of his own, Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur. Laurent has since written and illustrated more than 50 Babar books.

Laurent de Brunhoff (b. 1925 Paris, France) is the acclaimed author and artist of Babar the Elephant books. In 2012, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris held major Babar exhibitions of Laurent and Jean’s work. 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 catalog was published, Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors, including an essay about Babar by Adam Gopnik, which was later published in The New Yorker. Major exhibitions of Laurent and Jean’s work were also held in 1981 at the Centre Culturel du Marais in Paris; in 1983-84 at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Baltimore Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, among others; in 1987 in Japan; and in 1989-90 at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, among others. There have been solo exhibitions of Laurent’s work at many museums throughout the United States, recently at Houghton Library of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Customs House Museum in Key West, FL; Dixon Gallery in Memphis, TN; Speed Museum in Atlanta, GA; and Davison Center at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT. Original Babar manuscripts and artwork by Laurent and Jean are in the collection of The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and Houghton Library at Harvard University, Cambridge. 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. He practices yoga daily and lives in Key West, FL and New York, NY.