Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Leo Lionni...author, illustrator, designer, art director, multi-talented creator...was born in the Netherlands on May 5, 1910, and died October 11, 1999 in Italy. He studied and worked as a painter and in advertising in Italy; then from about 1939 to 1962 he lived in the US, where he worked as a prominent advertising artist and art director.
Ad art for Container Corporation of America
His body of work exhibits an astounding versatility.
Fortune Magazine was one of his biggest clients.
Ad for Olivetti Typewriter
His work was often a startling break from the realistic images... 
Art for Colored Paper ad
...that dominated much of advertising at the time.
It would take a book-length post to cover all of the diversity and extraordinary vision this artist displayed in his work.
It wasn't until Lionni moved back to Italy around 1962 that he turned to the creation of children's books. By this time he had already honed his art to an exceptionally high level...
...and he brought all of that training, skill, and power, undiminished, to this new-to-him field.
Illustration from "Fish Is Fish"
The control, confidence, strength of his illustrations---and the whimsy, freedom, imagination, and child-like accessibility---burst forth from every page of his books.
Illustration from "Frederick"
So simple, so full of color (even in grays and neutrals)---so full of wit, joy, and energy---
Illustration from "It's Mine"
---art of this caliber in children's books is hard to find. A discussion of Lionni's storytelling gifts would fill yet more posts. I hope you will use the links below to find out more about this wonderful artist.






  1. Thank you. I've learned so much from this post.

    1. I myself learned a great deal while composing it. I did not know of Lionni's strong advertising background, nor did I know that he turned to children's books only after he had grandchildren.

  2. Thanks for this post, Wendy! I did not recognize the name, Leo Lionni, yet his children's book illustrations look familiar. I learn so much from your blog post and always enjoy the art! Thank you!

    1. Thank you! I always learn a great deal myself in doing research for these posts.