Final farewell for artist and writer Tomi Ungerer at West Cork funeral service

Artist and writer Tomi Ungerer at home in West Cork. Pic: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Family and friends today said a final farewell to globally-celebrated children's French-born author, cartoonist and illustrator Tomi Ungerer following a funeral service in West Cork, and later a cremation.

But his legacy - including an amazing body of work including over 140 books published in 28 languages - remains, with his family announcing the 87-year-old had been working on a new collection of short stories.

His works will also feature in two major exhibitions in Paris this springtime.

It was announced Mr Ungerer had "died peacefully in his sleep with a book beside him", with his website noting: 'Tomi’s imagination never slept'.

He had been a lifelong activist having protested against racial segregation, the Vietnam war and the election of US President Donald Trump. His social activism and often irreverent writings led to some of his work being branded "subversive" by critics.

However, throughout his life in which his work continued to be politically-charged and he was involved in numerous humanitarian campaigns for nuclear disarmament, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and more recently, European integration.

After the publication in 1969 of his “Fornicon,” a book of comical but startling sexual imagery, he found himself unwelcome in children’s book circles," the New York Times recalled.

“Americans cannot accept that a children’s book author should do erotic work or erotic satire,” Mr Ungerer told the newspaper in 2008, when some of his books began to be republished in the US and Britain. However, his status as an important and innovative figure in graphic arts has been more widely recognized in the US.

In 2015, he had his first American retrospective in New York. Reviewer Roberta Smith wrote: “This selection is too small and fast-moving to do justice to Mr Ungerer’s multifaceted creativity. With a talent as polymorphous as this, you want a cornucopia, not a tasting menu.”

His final decades were spent living in the Mizen Peninsula, in the Goleen area, with his wife Yvonne and their family.

Born in Strasbourg in 1931, Mr Ungerer works ranged from children's books like The Three Robbers and The Moon Man to erotic drawings as well as satirical paintings and political posters. He wrote in three languages - English, French and German.

Mr Ungerer, who had been born in November 1931 into a family of watchmakers, had witnessed the annexation of his birthplace Alsace by Germany during World War II and the imposition of German and Nazi ideology in schools which he recounted later in autobiographical works.

He donated more than 11,000 original works of art, sculptures, books and toys to a museum which opened in 2007 in Strasbourg. Since then, the Tomi Ungerer Museum is one of the ten best museums in Europe.

He was awarded the Legion of Honour by France in 1990 and was elevated to Commander of the Legion of Honour in 2018.

Read More: The Irish Examiner's 2015 interview with Mr Ungerer: Illustrator Tomi Ungerer says Ireland is the best place to live

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