August 1, 2014

Exploring Ludwig Bemelmans’s New York



"Madeline at the Paris Flower Market"

“Madeline at the Paris Flower Market”


If you were ever a child, you probably know Madeline as the little French schoolgirl in the blue dress. But how much do you know about her creator, Ludwig Bemelmans?

Born to a Belgian-German family in a part of Austria-Hungary that is now Italy, Bemelmans spent much of his life in New York. In fact, Madeline herself was created here, and a new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, timed with the 75th anniversary of the first Madeline book’s publication, explores Bemelman’s life as a New Yorker.


Map of Bemelmans's New York, illustrated by Adrienne Ottenburg

Map of Bemelmans’s New York, illustrated by Adrienne Ottenburg

As reported by Hyperallergic, the illustrator Adrienne Ottenberg has created a map of New York for the exhibition which highlights Bemelmans’s haunts and habits, including his favorite dish at The Oyster Bar (clam pan roast) and the location of his writing studio (The Plaza). While many other locations are long gone, literary tourists can still visit Pete’s Tavern, where the first lines of Madeline were written, and The Carlyle Hotel, whose Bemelmans Bar features murals of Madeline in Central Park, painted by Bemelmans in exchange for free accommodations.

“Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans,” featuring drawings from the Madeline books as well as other drawings and paintings from throughout Bemelmans’s career, is on display through October 19.


Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.