Laurent de Brunhoff

Laurent de Brunhoff – The Celebrated French Author and Illustrator

Laurent de Brunhoff is a prominent illustrator and author known for his contributions to the beloved Babar book series. Born in 1925 in Paris, de Brunhoff followed in the footsteps of his father, Jean de Brunhoff, who originally created the iconic elephant character, Babar. After his father’s passing, Laurent continued the Babar legacy, bringing to life new adventures and captivating generations of readers with his imaginative storytelling and whimsical illustrations. His work has left a lasting impact on children’s literature and the world of illustration, making him a celebrated figure in the realm of storytelling and artistic creativity.



Key Takeaways

  • Laurent de Brunhoff was a key figure in the enduring popularity of Babar the Elephant series.
  • He built upon his father’s creation and introduced Babar to new generations.
  • De Brunhoff has left a lasting impact on children’s literature and the character’s multimedia presence.



Early Life and Background

BirthAugust 30, 1925
DeathMarch 22, 2024
Place of BirthParis, France
Genre of WorkAuthor and illustrator

Laurent de Brunhoff, a celebrated French author and illustrator, was instrumental in continuing the legacy of one of the world’s most beloved children’s characters, Babar the Elephant. Born in Paris in 1925, into a creative family, de Brunhoff was exposed to the arts at an early age. His father, Jean de Brunhoff, was the original creator of the Babar books, which quickly became a cherished classic after its debut. Upon the passing of his father, Laurent took up the mantle and further developed the world of the elephant king, cementing Babar’s place in children’s literature.

Laurent de Brunhoff Biography Laurent de Brunhoff at the 2008 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas (2008); Larry D. Moore, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

De Brunhoff not only continued his father’s work but also expanded the Babar series, bringing the tales to new generations of readers. The character of Babar, an elephant who finds himself in human-like situations, has resonated with audiences for its blend of whimsy and lessons on values such as kindness, understanding, and resilience.

De Brunhoff’s work ensured the proliferation of these stories across various media, turning Babar into a cultural icon and a part of a global multimedia franchise.


Parisian Roots and Family

Laurent de Brunhoff was born in Paris on August 30, 1925. He was introduced to the world of storytelling and art at a young age, being the son of Jean de Brunhoff, the original creator of the Babar books, and Cécile de Brunhoff, who inspired the stories. His familial connections imbued in him a keen appreciation for literature and creativity. Laurent’s brother Thierry de Brunhoff was a noted concert pianist and later a Benedictine monk.

Laurent de Brunhoff Writer Serafina the Giraffe (1961) by Laurent de Brunhoff; Loïc Boyer, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Education Journey

His education in Paris equipped Laurent with a foundational understanding of the arts. He attended the École Alsacienne, a prestigious private school, which further cultivated his interests. Following his primary schooling, Laurent’s pursuit of the arts continued as he forged his own pathway, building on the literary contributions of his family.

He went on to take over the legacy of the Babar series after his father’s death, becoming both an author and a painter, further cementing the de Brunhoff name in the annals of children’s literature.



Development of His Career

Laurent de Brunhoff became a steward of an iconic character, Babar the Elephant, which led him through a prolific career in writing and illustration, spanning nearly seven decades.

Laurent de Brunhoff Illustrations Serafina the Giraffe (1961) by Laurent de Brunhoff; Loïc Boyer, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr


Early Career

Laurent de Brunhoff took on the mantle of continuing the Babar series after the untimely death of his father, Jean de Brunhoff, who originally created Babar. At a young age, he began to work on the stories of the civilized elephant, honing his skills both as a storyteller and an illustrator.


Mature Career

Throughout his mature career, Laurent de Brunhoff published numerous Babar books. The series not only expanded under his stewardship but also maintained the charm and sophistication introduced by his father.

His art style was similar, but he infused his own personality and ideas into the work, contributing to its longevity and international acclaim.


Late Career and Death

In his later years, de Brunhoff continued to author the Babar books, keeping the series alive and relevant for new generations. He passed away on March 22, 2024, leaving behind a legacy encapsulated by the beloved elephant and its world, which reached children and adults alike around the globe.



Babar’s Creation and Evolution

Babar the Elephant is a cultural icon, the protagonist of a series that has evolved from books into a global multimedia franchise.

Laurent de Brunhoff Works Babar’s Visit to Bird Island (1952) by Laurent de Brunhoff; LME Press, CC BY-ND 4.0, via Flickr


Inception of Babar

The character Babar was brought to life by French writer Jean de Brunhoff after his wife, Cécile, narrated a bedtime story about a little elephant to their children. Jean then elaborated on this tale to create The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant in 1931, giving birth to not only a character but a legacy enriched by illustrations and storytelling.

Upon Jean’s untimely passing, his son Laurent de Brunhoff took the helm at the young age of 21, ensuring the character’s longevity and molding Babar’s world with as much aptitude and charm as his father.


Expansion of the Series

Laurent de Brunhoff proved to be a dedicated steward of Babar’s legacy, greatly expanding the Babar series since the 1940s. Under his care, Babar’s adventures continued, and the elephant kingdom of Celesteville flourished. Laurent authored dozens of books over the years, developing intricate narratives and detailed illustrations that captivated children and adults alike. His commitment translated into the series being printed in millions of copies, delighting readers across the globe.

Laurent de Brunhoff Art Babar’s Ski Jump (1969) by Laurent de Brunhoff; docnad, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flickr


Global Impact and Criticism

Babar transitioned from books to a significant multimedia franchise, encompassing TV shows, movies, and merchandise that reached an international audience. However, this global impact was not without its criticisms. Some critics, like Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker and Chilean author Ariel Dorfman, described the books as a portrayal of a colonial dream with racist undertones. They argued that Babar represented a problematic simplification of colonialism.

Despite such controversies, Babar remains a cherished figure, and his creator Laurent de Brunhoff, along with his wife Phyllis Rose, was integral in developing a character whose influence stretched far beyond the original books and into the hearts of many around the world.



Legacy of Laurent de Brunhoff Today

Laurent de Brunhoff has left an indelible mark on children’s literature. Through his dedication, the enchanting world of Babar preserved by de Brunhoff has enthralled generations. He not only sustained his father’s vision but expanded the Babar universe with creative vitality. De Brunhoff’s work has been instrumental in shaping the genre of children’s books. He carried on his father’s legacy by producing over 30 original Babar books, which have been translated into numerous languages, reaching a diverse, global audience.

Laurent de Brunhoff Books Cover of Serafina the Giraffe (1961) by Laurent de Brunhoff; Loïc Boyer, CC BY-NC 4.0, via Flickr

Babar, under de Brunhoff’s stewardship, became a cultural icon, representing a bridge between generations. The character of Babar and his adventures have been adapted into various media forms, including television shows, films, and merchandise. These adaptations have further solidified Babar’s place in popular culture and have kept the legacy alive long after the books were first published. Educators and librarians have often noted Babar’s ability to introduce important conversations within family and educational contexts, touching on ethics and morality, social and environmental issues, and family and community. Laurent de Brunhoff’s legacy persists in the continued admiration for Babar. The values and narratives he fostered continue to educate and entertain, securing Babar’s place in the pantheon of children’s literature icons.


Laurent de Brunhoff’s artistic legacy extends far beyond the pages of the Babar books. Through his vibrant illustrations and captivating narratives, he has enchanted readers young and old, leaving an indelible mark on the world of children’s literature and illustration. His imaginative storytelling, coupled with his distinctive artistic style, continues to inspire and delight audiences worldwide, making Laurent de Brunhoff a cherished figure in the realm of art and storytelling.




Frequently Asked Questions


Who Is Considered the Successor to the Original Creator of the Babar Book Series?

Laurent de Brunhoff is recognized as the successor to his father, Jean de Brunhoff, the original creator of the Babar series. After his father’s death, Laurent continued the storytelling of Babar the Elephant, expanding the series.


What Significant Contributions Has Laurent de Brunhoff Made to Children’s Literature?

Through his continuation of the Babar series, Laurent de Brunhoff has made significant contributions by enriching the series with new adventures and characters, thereby ensuring its lasting popularity and relevance in children’s literature.


How Has the Babar Series Evolved Under Laurent de Brunhoff’s Authorship?

Under Laurent de Brunhoff’s authorship, the Babar series has evolved with modern narratives while maintaining the charm and civility of the original tales. His storytelling has seen Babar engage in contemporary issues, which has helped the series to remain relatable to successive generations of readers.


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Laurent de Brunhoff – The Celebrated French Author and Illustrator.” Art in Context. May 14, 2024. URL:

Meyer, I. (2024, 14 May). Laurent de Brunhoff – The Celebrated French Author and Illustrator. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Laurent de Brunhoff – The Celebrated French Author and Illustrator.” Art in Context, May 14, 2024.

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