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Ludwig Bemelmans
American (Austrian Tyrol (now Meran, Italy), 1898 - 1962, New York, NY)

Object Type: Watercolor
Medium and Support: Watercolor on paper
Credit Line: Anonymous gift
Accession Number: 1958.66
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Location: Not currently on view

The creator of the beloved Madeline stories had a sharp and satirical eye for the scenes that he found around him in his adopted city of New York. In addition to his children’s books, Bemelmans illustrated for the New Yorker, Vogue, and Holiday magazines. Currently, the curator is trying to determine if this artwork was designed for a New Yorker cover.

Upscale New York restaurant were familiar territories for Bemelmans. At age 14, he was apprenticed to his uncle, a hotelier in the Tyrol. The young Bemelmans’ lack of success – and outright bad behavior – contributed to his emigration to America, where he sought his fortune as a waiter at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City. After serving in World War I, he opened and decorated his own restaurant. When a friend in the publishing business suggested that he turn his whimsical paintings into stories, Bemelmans wrote his first children’s book – Hansi. In 1939, Madeline appeared. He went on to write for adults, and in 1941, wrote Hotel Splendide, a fictional account of a grand hotel with an elegant, but problem-ridden restaurant.

Bemelmans is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His public work survives in the 1947 mural commission for the Hotel Carlyle on Madison Avenue – in what is now called Bemelmans Bar.

[Label text, 2003]

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Artist's signature, lower right: Bemelmans

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