Leonard Weisgard (1916–2000) was an inventive, prolific, distinctive, and beloved illustrator. He published his first book at age twenty, in 1937, and over the next fifty-two years illustrated over 200 more children’s books, winning the Caldecott Medal and many other awards.
Weisgard studied art at Pratt Institute and The New School for Social Research. He was inspired by the colors, shapes, and clean lines of both mid-century modernism and the folk art of the United States and Denmark, where he emigrated in 1969 and lived for thirty years. He was a master of a wide range of media, including gouache, poster paint, crayon, chalk, decoupage, stenciling, and pen and ink.
In 1939, he illustrated The Noisy Book, the first title in a long-term, synergistic collaboration with author Margaret Wise Brown. Together they created Red Light Green Light, The Important Book, Little Island, which won the Caldecott, and others. (All Harper-Collins.)
He brought a modern sensibility to classics such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, (Doubleday) Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling (Walker), and The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore (Grosset & Dunlap). He illustrated books he wrote himself, sometimes under the name Adam Green, including The Funny Bunny Factory (Penguin Random House). And his illustrations adorned many titles for Little Golden Books, such as Wheels and Pantaloon by Kathryn Jackson and The Golden Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.
In 2016, The Eric Carle Museum celebrated his work in a retrospective, “Magician of the Modern: The Art of Leonard Weisgard.”