BEMELMANS, Ludwig (1898-1962) Author and artist. Archive of 41 letters signed ("Ludwig," "Ludovico," or "Ludwig Bemelmans"), to Elizabeth Weicker (1916-2012) and Theodore Weicker, Jr. (1902-1968), 18 January 1960-10 August 1962. Together 57 pages, various sizes, EXTENSIVELY ILLUSTRATED THROUGHOUT WITH 25 DRAWINGS IN THE TEXT, several in watercolor.
"MY FIRST PASSION AND LOVE IS WRITING AND COLOR"
MADELINE'S CREATOR BLENDS HIS TWO GREAT PASSIONS in this charming and creative correspondence with the prominent American socialite and philanthropist, Elizabeth Weicker (later Elizabeth Fondaras). He describes his work on a new children's book, Marina which he calls "about the best story for kids I have written next to Madeline" (19 August 1961). His Madeline wealth gave him the means to roam the world in luxurious style. He sails aboard the liner Belle France from New York to Paris where he would stay either at the Ritz or at the Weickers' "apartment en ciel," on the Ile St. Louis, with its panoramic view of the city. A letter from 18 January 1960 includes a comical self-portrait of him painting in the Weicker home, swaddled in heavy coats. He ponders the merits of buying property in Jamaica as opposed to the Bahamas, and regularly visits the French Riviera. One letter (9 April 1960) from Saulieu has a drawing of an arm raising a champagne glass with the caption, "Once more with feeling." In March 1960 he plans to travel to Israel and see his friend Otto Preminger on the set of Exodus. But he also has insightful comments on political figures of the day, such as President John F. Kennedy. Playing off JFK's famous comment that his father had warned him that "all businessmen were sons of bitches," Bemelmans writes (23 May 1962): "the businessman SOB complex JFK has, comes (most probably without knowing it himself) from a hatred of his father, for there really was a businessman SOB." Bemelmans was a prolific travel writer for adult readers, and in one letter he vows to publish a scathing piece on the way American travelers were treated in both Germany and Austria: "They understand only one thing and that is a swift kick in the belly with a hobnail boot, salute and turn around and then another on the backside."
Bemelmans expresses as much with his drawings as with his words in this correspondence. Indeed, in one of his few departures from the champagne-style insouciance of these letters, he asserts that his artistic gifts make it hard for him to maintain intimacy with anyone. "My first passion and love is writing and color, and as an artist one cannot ever belong to anyone, and that is odd and unfair..." (17 May 1962). A separate watercolor included in the archive, signed "L.B.," is a Charles Addams-ish painting of an artist/butcher dismembering a female nude. One of the more striking images included here began as a doodle of a cat, but layer upon layer of ink transformed it into a dark, even somewhat menacing sphinx. "A doodled self-portrait" he calls it. A revealing and fascinating archive. (41)