Michener Art Museum

Kurt Wiese


Kurt Wiese at work in his studio, photograph by Maynard Clark, James A. Michener Art Museum, gift of Philip A. and Dianna T. Betsch
NONFICTION WRITER, PAINTER
BORN: April 22, 1887, Minden, Germany
DIED: May 27, 1974, Idell, New Jersey


Illustrator Kurt Wiese was incredibly prolific, illustrating over 300 children's books, by authors such as Zane Grey and Rudyard Kipling. His most well known work are the illustrations for the original Bambi book. Wiese wrote and illustrated many children's books himself, winning the Caldecott Medal for Children's Literature twice. German-born Wiese traveled in China selling merchandise as a young man. On the outbreak of WWI, he was captured by the Japanese, and turned over to the British. He spent five years as a prisoner, most of them in Australia, where his fascination for the animal life inspired him to start sketching. Completely self-taught, upon his return to Germany he worked for an animated film company for several years, where he developed the innovation of completing drawings on transparent material to avoid redrawing the background with every frame. He credited this work with teaching him quick and accurate draughtsmanship. He began his own story writing and illustration during this time, and continued with it during three years in Brazil before coming to America. All ready well-known, his career burgeoned here, his travels serving as the basis for many of his works.