A short biography of Leonard Weisgard

Leonard Joseph Weisgard
December 13, 1916 – January 14, 2000
Leonard Weisgard, Caldecott award-winning illustrator of more than 200 children’s books was perhaps best known for his collaboration with the author Margaret Wise Brown.

Leonard Weisgard with his father Samuel

Weisgard was born in New Haven, Connecticut but spent much of his early childhood in England, where his father originally came from.His interest in the quality of children’s books began after his family moved back to the USA when he was 8. As a schoolboy in New York, he was dissatisfied with the books supplied by the public schools he attended. He found the illustrations monotonous and thought that the world could not be all that dreary and limited to only one color.

He went on to study art at the Pratt Institute and the New School for Social Research, where he was influenced by primitive cave paintings, Gothic and Renaissance art and avant-garde French illustrators of children’s books of the 1920s.

He used a wide range of colors and media in his books, including gouache, poster paint, crayon, chalk, decoupage, stenciling and pen and ink.

Leonard Weisgard also studied dance with Martha Graham and worked in the field of window display. He began his career making illustrations for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar.

Leonard Weisgard - UNICEF card designs

Leonard with Nora Edmunds of UNICEF with reproductions of Greeting Cards

His first book, Suki, the Siamese Pussy, was published in 1937, followed by an adaptation of Cinderella.

(Sources: The LA Times from the 24th of January, 2000 and The New York Times the 27th of January, 2000)

Leonard Weisgard at work

Leonard Weisgard working on an illustration for the Unicef greeting cards

Weisgard also collaborated with other children’s book writers and wrote books he illustrated himself, sometimes under the pseudonym “Adam Green”.

Leonard Weisgard

Leonard Weisgard married Phyllis Monnot in 1951 and they had three children, Abigail (1952), Christina (1954) and Ethan (1957).
Leonard and Phyllis often worked together creating set and costume designs with Leonard sketching and Phyllis making patterns so the designs could become a reality. He designed the stage sets and costumes for several productions of the San Francisco Ballet, including The Dryad and The Nutcracker.

During the years he lived in Roxbury, Connecticut, Weisgard was deeply involved with children’s education. He lectured extensively and worked closely with The American Library Association.

Leonard Weisgard's studio in Denmark. Photo: Karsten Damstedt Jørgensen

Leonard Weisgard’s studio in Denmark. Photo: Karsten Damstedt Jørgensen

Leonard Weisgard moved to Denmark with his wife and children in 1969 where he lived for the rest of his life. His children and grandchildren – Ethan and Midoriko’s son Yuji (1989) and daughter Nanami (1987) – all live in Copenhagen.”Books, he once said in an interview, have always, for as long as I can recall, been a source of real magic in this wildly confusing world.”

(Sources: The LA Times from the 24th of January, 2000 and The New York Times the 27th of January, 2000)

Jelshøjgård, Trælløse

Photo: Karsten Damstedt Jørgensen
Leonard and Phyllis Weisgard’s home in Denmark