Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Hungarian Rabbit Hole

It all started with some ice cream sandwiches at Sunday dinner. They reminded me of the Good Humor man, and a picture book we had when I was a very young child called The Good Humor Man. I thought maybe it was a Little Golden Book.

Soon Daughter Number Three-Point-One was searching it and sure enough, she found images of the book and it was a Little Golden Book. 

Who was the illustrator? Someone named Tibor Gergely. Who was he? He was a Jewish Hungarian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1939. In addition to many children's books you may have seen, he did New Yorker covers and other illustration work.

His wife was known as Anna Lesznai and she was, it turned out, even more interesting. Fifteen years his elder, she was a writer, painter, designer, and part of the Hungarian avant-garde before the rise of the Nazis. She was a member of the country's political intelligentsia and even in the education ministry for a brief period.

Tibor Gergely was her third husband, and Lesznai married him only after a long period of relationship during which he helped raise her two sons from her second marriage. Kind of unusual for the time, though probably less so in the Bohemian and artistic circles they were part of.

After they arrived in the U.S., she ran her own school of painting and wrote an autobiographical novel. It doesn't appear to have been translated into English. She died in 1966 at about age 80.

Here are some of her paintings.


And all from an ice cream sandwich.


No comments: