Leo Lionni

(Amsterdam, 1910 – Radda in Chianti, 1999)


Leo Lionni was born into a family that appreciated art, and, from a very young age, he knew he wanted to be an artist. He loved nature and started keeping small creatures—minnows, birds, fish, and more - in his attic room in Amsterdam.

As a teenager he lived in the United States and then Italy. While in Italy, Lionni became a respected artist and attended the University of Genoa, where he obtained a doctorate in economics in 1935. In 1939 he moved to the United States to find work, eventually settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family joined him right before Italy entered into World War II. In Philadelphia Lionni entered the advertising field, spearheading successful campaigns for corporations such as the Ford Motor Company. In 1947 he moved to New York, New York, where he worked as a freelance art director for Fortune magazine. Among his other jobs in the 1950s, he became coeditor and art director of the graphic-design magazine Print. After a successful career in the United States, Lionni returned to Italy when he was 50 years old (although he would eventually divide his time between the two countries). Lionni created his first children’s book by chance. When he was still in the United States, he took a train ride with his grandchildren and entertained them by creating a story about two circles of color using pieces of paper from a magazine. This story was published in 1959 as Little Blue and Little Yellow. Lionni continued to write and illustrate books for the rest of his life.

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