Influenced at first by the French cartoonists Jean Effel (François Lejeune) and Raymond Peynet, François quickly developed his own unique and much admired approach. He drew with a rough-hewn, scratchy line using worn nibs in a deceptively childlike style.
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 left-wing 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. He died April 11 2005.
Biography from The Guardian newspaper, UK.
This is part 1 of 3-part post on the works of André François:
|1948 French Vogue cover |
1949 Little Boy Brown by Isobel Harris:
1952 Lettre des Iles Baladar:
|Inside Front Cover|
|Inside Back Cover|
|1952 Punch magazine November 19|
|1953 Punch magazine January 7|
1953 The Tattooed Sailor:
|1953 The Tattooed Sailor|
|1953 The Tattooed Sailor|
|1954 Punch magazine February 3|
|1954 Punch magazine September 15|
"What do you mean, 'not ideal circumstances'?"
|1955 Punch magazine November 23|
1956 Crocodile Tears:
|1957 Baignol & Farjon |
advertisement for pens 22 x 30 cm
|1957 Punch magazine April 17|
|1957 Punch magazine August 28|
|1960 Punch magazine December 21|
|1960 Punch magazine February 3|
|1960 Punch magazine June 15|
|1960 The Biting Eye published by Perpetua Books|
|1960c Bestiaire Fantastique |
colour etching and sugar-ground aquatint 39.4 x 57.4 cm