"In a old house in Paris, that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. They left the house, at half past nine...The smallest one was Madeline"
Any parent with small children is undoubtedly familiar with the text above. It is from the award winning children's book Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. The author is most famous for his series of Madeline books but he also was a novelist, a screenwriter, a painter, a muralist and wrote non-fiction.
Bemelmans was born in Austria in 1898 and died in 1962. An interesting fact about Bemelmans is that he started his career in the hotel business, enlisted with the United States army during World War 1 and became a restaurateur before ever writing a book. In fact, he didn't start writing until 1934 when his book Hansi was first published. Although this book was well received, it wasn't until Bemelmans wrote Madeline that he saw real success.
Ludwig married Madeline Freund in 1935 and had one daughter named Barbara whom the Madeline character is based on. The first Madeline was published in 1939 and was named a Caldecott Honor Book and the sequel, Madeline's Rescue received a Caldecott Medal. He went on to write four other Madeline books which have all become classics. Bemelmans was a busy man - he created many covers for the New Yorker, contributed to various other magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Town and Country, Vogue and he designed a set for a Broadway show.
Later in his life Bemelmans considered himself a serious painter. If you're visiting New York, be sure to stop by the Carlyle Hotel and have a drink at the Bemelmans bar - it is there that you can see his murals.