Acclaimed illustrator Erik Blegvad, whose artwork appeared in more than 100 children’s books, several of them by his wife, Lenore Blegvad (1926-2008), died on January 14 at the age of 90.
Born in Copenhagen in 1923, Blegvad worked as an artist or illustrator from the earliest days of his career, in his hometown as well as in London and Paris. He married a fellow artist, American Lenore Hochman, whom he met in Paris, in 1950. The next year he immigrated to the United States and soon after, he illustrated his first children’s book, The Story of Peace and War by Tom Galt (Crowell, 1953). He went on to create artwork for books by such authors as Judith Viorst and Charlotte Zolotow as well as for stories by Hans Christian Andersen.
Blegvad’s work – both pen-and-ink and watercolor – was variously praised in journals as “delicate,” “elegant,” “detailed,” and “sprightly.” In 1998, he illustrated Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear (S&S/McElderry), his 100th book, which was written by his lifelong friend N.M. Bodecker. The two had met as students at art school in Copenhagen in 1941 and enjoyed a similar career trajectory. Following Bodeker’s death in 1988, editor Margaret McElderry (who had edited the work of both) spurred the project of a posthumous re-illustrated volume for her imprint at Simon & Schuster. When first published in the 1970s, the original book had contained Bodecker’s own black-and-white drawings.
When his rendition of Hurry Hurry, Mary Dear was released, Blegvad reflected on the joy and fulfillment he had received from his work by telling PW he was “extra lucky to make an income from something that’s a wonderful thing to be doing.”