The d’Aulaires

Ingri (1904 – 1980) and Edgar (1898 – 1986) Parin d’Aulaire [doe-lair] were married writers and illustrators of children’s books in the 20th century.

Using their research and travel experiences as inspiration, the husband and wife team produced 27 picture books for children. They also wrote and illustrated introductory books of Greek and Norse mythology.

Edgar Parin, originally of Swiss citizenship, was born in Munich, Germany to the noted Italian portrait painter Gino Parin and Ella Auler, a talented artist and musician who had moved from St. Louis to Paris. Edgar Parin took his mother’s maiden name when she changed it to d’Aulaire. After studying architecture for a year in Munich, Edgar began his art studies at the School of Arts and Crafts there. Edgar, a pupil of Hans Hofman and Henri Matisse, studied fresco in Florence, painted murals in France and Norway, and had exhibitions in Paris, Berlin and Oslo. He illustrated many books in Germany from 1922 to 1926 and painted frescoes in Norway from 1926 to 1927.

Ingri Mortenson was born in Kongsberg, Norway. When she was 15, the renowned Norwegian painter Harriet Backer encouraged her to pursue art as a career. Ingri later studied at art schools in Norway, Germany, and France. Ingri and Edgar met in Munich. They were married in 1925. A modest insurance settlement following a near-fatal bus-trolley collision in Paris provided the seed money to send Edgar to the United States, steerage class, to scout for opportunities. He garnered enough commissions illustrating books to send for Ingri. They initially took up residence in a cold-water walk-up flat in Brooklyn, NY in 1929.

At first, the couple pursued separate careers. Edgar concentrated on illustrating books using wood block engravings and stone lithography; Ingri garnered commissions to paint portraits of prominent businessmen. Their work caught the eye of the director of the New York Public Library. Acting on her suggestion, the d’Aulaires decided to turn their talents to children’s books. They collaborated on the first of many to come, ‘The Magic Rug’ in 1931.

Shortly thereafter they took up United States citizenship. The d’Aulaires lived and worked in Wilton, Connecticut, from 1941 until their deaths in the 1980s. They also had a farm in Royalton, Vermont. Many of the d’Aulaires’ early books depict the scenery and folktales of Norway. The couple later shifted their attention to their adopted country, and produced books about American folk heroes such as Pocahontas, Benjamin Franklin, and Buffalo Bill.

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