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Christopher Wheeler | profile | all galleries >> Cartoon(ist) Gallery >> Andre Francois tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Andre Francois

Born Hungary, 1915. Began working as a cartoonist in the 1940s. Drew about fifty New Yorker covers.

In early December of 2002, Francois's "atelier" -- a large separated room in his garden -- burned, destroying nearly all his life's works, including his drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Francois spent a week in the hospital and had to have all his exhibitions cancelled for lack of material.

I'm sorry to report that he succumbed to heart and kidney failure on April 11, 2005. He was 89 at the time. Here's a portion of his obituary from The Guardian:

"He was born André Farkas in Timisoara, then part of Hungary but now in Romania, the youngest child of Albert Farkas, a Jewish businessman, and Olga Ploen, who was Viennese. After school, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest (1932-33), before moving to Paris in 1934 and entering the atelier of the poster artist Adolphe Cassandre (1935-36).

"He worked at first as a poster artist, but also began to draw cartoons under the name of André François, the first appearing in Marianne in 1939. That year he also became a French citizen and officially changed his surname; he also married an English student, Margaret Edmunds. They had two children, Catherine and Pierre.

"With the fall of France in 1940, François escaped first to Marseilles and then Savoie. After the liberation he returned to Paris and eventually settled with his family in an old farmhouse in the village of Grisy-les-Platres, working from a studio in his garden.

"François published his first children's book, Issy-les-Brioches, in 1946, and the following year illustrated Diderot's Jacques Le Fataliste and John Symonds's William Waste. By the end of the decade he was contributing regular cartoons and illustrations to the New Yorker and Punch. Other publications included Paris-Match, Lui, Holiday, Sports Illustrated, Le Monde, Vogue, Life, Esquire and Fortune.

"In addition, he designed adverts (for Kodak, Olivetti, Citroën, Esso, Pérrier and others), produced animated TV ads, and designed stage sets for Roland Petit's ballet company (1956), Peter Hall's The Merry Wives Of Windsor (1958) and Gene Kelly's Pas De Dieux (1960). He also designed books for Penguin and playing-cards for Unicef.

"François was a close friend of Ronald Searle (whom he had met in Paris in 1947) and they collaborated on François's book The Biting Eye (1960) edited by Searle and published by his company the Perpetua Press in 1960. Other books included André François's Double Bedside Book (1952), The Tattooed Sailor (1953), The Half-Naked Knight (1958), The Penguin André François (1964), You are Ri-di-cu-lous (1970), André François (1976) and Sirénades (1998). He also wrote and illustrated numerous children's books for publishers such as Lippincott in the US and Delpire in France, including Les Larmes de Crocodile, which won the US Best Childrens' Book Award in 1956 and was translated into 14 languages.

"For many years François exhibited widely in Europe and the US, with major retrospectives in the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris (1986) and the Mitsukoshi Museum, Tokyo (1995). Tragically, all his original work not held in public or private collections was destroyed by a fire in his studio in 2002. With immense fortitude, he began again and produced two major Paris exhibitions within a few months: Ordeal by Fire at the Centre Pompidou and a retrospective of posters and book-jacket designs at the Bibliothéque Forney.

"A Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (1975), François received an honorary doctorate from the University of London in 1977. Ralph Steadman called him "one of the singularly great graphic artists of the 20th century" and Quentin Blake has said of his work: "The drawings don't appear to have gone through a process of preparation; it is as though they had just been scratched down on the paper at the moment they were thought of. And yet they are instinct with a sense of drawing." Searle, who confessed to being 'a constant admirer of his extraordinary and even magical graphic vision", noted in his introduction to The Biting Eye that "the dividing line between reality and fantasy is barely visible. Ideas sprout like flowers from his head. But they are rooted in reality, not dottiness, and although the order of things is rearranged, it is only to sharpen our appreciation of them.'

"François had leftwing sympathies, but said that he felt that his work was more a defence against what goes on in the world around him than an attack upon it."

You may be able to contact some of his many friends at the following United States address:
The Illustrators' Partnership of America
845 Moraine Street
Marshfield, MA 02050
Andre Francois
Andre Francois
The Tattooed Sailor (1953) (signed)
:: The Tattooed Sailor (1953) (signed) ::
The Half-Naked Knight (1958)
The Half-Naked Knight (1958)
The Biting Eye (1960)
The Biting Eye (1960)
Andre Francois -- Andre Francois (1986)
Andre Francois -- Andre Francois (1986)
A Punch cover (3 Feb 1960)
A Punch cover (3 Feb 1960)