People become famous for different reasons. Leo Lionni gained hisinternational reputation for performing various roles that includedbeing an author, editor, painter, graphic designer, sculptor,illustrator, and a cartoonist (Beltchenko, 2016). He continues to beremembered for his impressive work and contribution to the artindustry. The paper seeks to discuss the artist’s biographicalinformation and major influences, including examples of his work.

Leo Lionni’s life began in Holland in 1910 (Roberts, 2015). Hisparents were Dutch whereby the father worked as an artisan and themother as an opera singer. During the time of his birth, Amsterdamwas undergoing radical change both politically and culturally(Roberts, 2015). The Socialist party had influenced the government toundermine the progressive education system. Therefore, the onlysubjects that Lionni was able to plan focused on art, crafts andnature. The lessons were helpful since he got to appreciate art froman early age under the influence of his family as well. When heturned 14 years, his family moved to Philadelphia and the followingyear they shifted again to Italy. The artist spent most of hisleisure time in the museums in Amsterdam and taught himself to draw.Lionni could not be enrolled in a ‘classical’ high school, butended up in a ‘commercial’ institution where he learned Italian,art, poetry, and literature. The artist later joined the Universityof Genoa and pursued a doctorate in Economics, which was contrary tothe careers he pursued in his actual life. In 1931, Lionni gotmarried to Nora Maffi with whom they conceived two sons.

At the same time, his interest in art and design developed. Theartist got to prepare designs that reflected the futurism andavant-garde styles (Roberts, 2015). The Bauhaus is one of theinfluential styles that Lionni got to develop under Marinetti’ssupport. The design applied the aerodynamic painting and reflectedthe Bauhaus teachings (Roberts, 2015). Lionni then shifted toAmerica in 1939, where he was hired as an art director for aPhiladelphia advertising agency. While working at the firm, he got todo one of the famous adverts for Ladies Home Journal that wasknown as ‘Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman.’ The artistalso worked in the same position for the Olivetti Corporation ofAmerica and the Fortune Magazine. His career flourished whileworking at Fortune since he got to form a teaser billboardpresentation that has remained a unique model for creative marketing.The company also got to sponsor his design of the American Pavilionduring the Brussels World’s Fair that was known as the ‘UnfinishedBusiness.’ It illustrated the issues that had not been addressed inthe American society. Lionni was also influential to otherpractitioners by helping them to launch their careers in fine andapplied art (Roberts, 2015).

When Lionni turned fifty years, he moved back to Italy where life wasinexpensive. It was at the time that he began his career as an authorof children’s book. His attempt to entertain his grandchildren ledto the foundation of the book ‘Little Blue and Little Yellow.’ Hedecided to pursue writing and applied the collage technique whilemaking pictures. In 1977, the ‘Parallel Botany’ was publishedthat presented a satiric documentary of his findings of nature(Beltchenko 2016). The author remained influential to the publicthrough the children books that mostly consisted of fables with morallessons at the end. Lionni received a gold medal in 1984, from theAmerican Institute of Graphic Arts, and was crowned as the CaldecottHonor winner four times for various books such as Swimmy, Inch byInch, Frederick, Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse(Beltchenko, 2016). Lionni died on October 11, 1999, in Tuscany,Italy where he had established his home.


Beltchenko, L. (2016). Intellectual Pursuits of Young Childrenthrough Picture Book Literacy, Focusing on Italian Preschools. GiftedChild Today, 39(3), 145-153

Roberts, C.(2015). Graphic design visionaries. London. Laurence KingPublishing.