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Laurent de Brunhoff (1925 – 2024)


We are very sad to share the news of the death of Laurent de Brunhoff, a cherished friend and long time artist with Mary Ryan Gallery. He passed away on March 22nd at the age of 98, at his home in Key West, Florida.


It has been a true pleasure working with Laurent and his art for almost forty years. Mary Ryan met Laurent when he first moved to the United States in 1985, and began representing his work in 1987. In the years since, all of us at Mary Ryan Gallery have had the pleasure of knowing him, and have had many adventures together.


Laurent was the author and illustrator of over 60 Babar books. At just thirteen years old, Laurent made his first Babar illustration for the cover of his father Jean de Brunhoff’s final Babar book after his father died at age 37. Laurent returned to Babar in 1946, and in the nearly eight decades since, his love for Babar, his art, and family story have touched millions across the globe.

Click here to read the article; Laurent de Brunhoff in his home in Key West

In the catalogue for his first exhibition at Mary Ryan Gallery in 1987, Laurent wrote:



If I became a writer and artist of children’s books, it was not because I had it in mind to create children’s books: it was because I wanted Babar to live on (or, as some will say, my father to live on). I wanted to stay in his country, the elephant world which is both an utopia and a gentle satire on the society of men. Babar and I both enjoy a friendly family life: his family is my family, his friends are my friends. Together we discovered America and travelled in space, together we organized the Celesteville Fair, and we share the same feelings: anger against Rataxes the rhino or love for the Wully-Wully. We take the same care to avoid over-dramatization of the events or situations that do arise. If we take the correct, efficient steps, we both believe that a happy end will come. When writing a book, my intention is to entertain, not to give a “message.” But still one can, of course, say there is a message in the Babar books, a message of nonviolence.


When my father died in 1937 after a brief career, Babar the King was already famous in France and abroad. I was twelve years old and I certainly did not imagine that one day I would continue the adventures of our beloved elephant. However, this is what happened ten years later.


When I decided to carry in the adventures of Babar, I worked to maintain the characters and quality of the drawings with the greatest faithfulness. For a long time the general public remained unaware of the death of my father, and thought that the interruption of the Babar series was due to the war. I often met people who were very surprised to see that the author of Babar was such a young man, although Babar himself dated from the 1930’s. They expected me to have a long white beard. Now I am older than my father ever was and sometimes that is an eerie feeling. I have done so many books that I no longer think of being faithful to the tradition anymore. Babar appears at the tip of my pencil as if I had invented him myself.


I love writing for children. They accept. They demand the greatest freedom in fantasy. Their minds are not burdened by preconceptions… not yet. They are able to enjoy wonder, laughter and tears more freely than adults.


I make each page of my book like a painting, with its own organization, rhythm, and color harmony. I passionately scrutinize every detail and do several color sketches until I am satisfied, both from a pictorial point of view, and with the atmosphere that is necessary to the story. And I always try to keep the spontaneity of my first sketches; rapid pencil notes are the most accurate expression of a movement, of a feeling. From these notes I work and dream, going, as children do, from the real to the imaginary. Perhaps, in that way, I am still a child.



Our hearts go out to his wife Phyllis Rose and to Laurent’s family and friends, in France and in the United States. We will miss you, Laurent.


To view a slideshow of his work in the New York Times, click here.

You can read his obituary in the New York Times here.