André François (1915 – 2005)


[Crocodile tears]
Feldafing: Buchheim Verlag, s.d. [1956]
[20] fol., pen-and-ink colored with pastels
8,5 x 26 cm, landscape, pictorial cardboard covers with pictorial slip case

OE.: Les larmes de crocodile, Paris: Delpire, 1954

NE: Crocodile tears, New York 2017


New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book 1956
The book and its history

This book comes in the most perfect packaging. The slipcase is designed as an airmail envelope with blue and red diagonal stripes in the margins, an address field, and a shipping label. Writing on the back warns readers: "Caution Crocodile! Do not throw, shake, tease! Protect from cold!" Plus more printed labels: "Express" and "By Airmail/Par Avion". The cover image of the oblong book shows part of the crocodile's body, which is continued on the inside cardboard cover as well as on the back cover. Thus, one tends to turn the book back and forth to find the beginning, or to admire the full length of the crocodile. With smooth black strokes and sparingly used red and green pastels, François draws a little absurd story about the concept of crocodile tears. For this, of course, a crocodile must first be fetched from Egypt, sent home in a long box by mail, and it must live in a family until it has had cause to cry. Then you realize what crocodile tears are.
The artist tells this short, whimsical story in cartoon-style with many crazy details that invite you to start over and over again until - possibly this is the artist's impulse for this book - the child's tears have dried. The little book was tremendously successful, has been translated into at least 14 languages and is considered a classic among picture books in France.

Biographical note

André François, born André Farka in 1915 in Timisoara, formerly Hungary, now Romania, died in 2005 in Grisy-les-Plâtres (Val-d'Oise department), France. He gained particular fame as a French cartoonist, but also as a painter, sculptor and graphic designer.
After studying at the Budapest School of Art, he moved to Paris in 1934 and worked with the then already famous graphic designer and poster artist Adolphe Cassandre, who taught at the École Nationale Superieure des Arts Décoratifs.
François became a French citizen in 1939, married the same year and soon had two children, Catherine and Pierre. He gained fame with his cartoons for Le Nouvel Observateur, the British satirical magazine Punch and the New Yorker. His drawing style in black and white, later also in color, distinguishes itself especially by a humorous-satirical point of view. Milton Glaser calls François, together with Saul Steinberg, the "shining light" of the 1950s, who strongly influenced the younger generation of cartoonists. Tomi Ungerer, along with others, refers to him as his great role model. François also made a name for himself as a commercial artist for major companies such as Kodak, Olivetti, Citroen, Perrier and others.
In 2002, a fire in his studio destroyed almost all his work. This did not prevent him from creating a new body of work in the last years of his life. In 2011, the Centre André François was opened in Margny-lés-Compiègne / Picardy, dedicated to the acquisition and maintenance of the artistic legacy and the promotion of illustration.


Centre André Francois :
Biography and illustrations

Sarah Moon “André Francois. Artist-Poet”, documentary, Garramedia 2004 (French with English subtitles) -

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