Art Spiegelman was born in Stockholm in 1948 and became the first comic artist to win the Pulitzer Prize. He won it in 1992 for his masterful Holocaust narrative Maus— which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Maus II continued the remarkable story of his parents’ survival of the Nazi regime and their lives later in America. His comics are best known for their shifting graphic styles, their formal complexity, and controversial content.
Spiegelman studied cartooning in high school and began drawing professionally at age 16. He went on to study art and philosophy at Harpur College before becoming part of the underground comix subculture of the 60s and 70s. As creative consultant for Topps Bubble Gum Co. from 1965-1987, Spiegelman created Wacky Packages, Garbage Pail Kids, and other novelty items, and taught history and aesthetics of comics at the School for Visual Arts in New York from 1979-1986. In 1980, Spiegelman founded RAW, the acclaimed avant-garde comics magazine, with his wife, Françoise Mouly.
He and Mouly more recently co-edited “Little Lit,” a series of three comics anthologies for children, and more recently, the husband-and-wife team published a series of early readers called “Toon Books.” Spiegelman’s work has been published in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, where he was a staff artist and writer from 1993-2003.
In 2004 he completed a two-year cycle of broadsheet-sized color comics pages, In the Shadow of No Towers. The book version of these highly political works appeared on many national bestseller lists, and was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004.
A major exhibition of his work was arranged by Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the "15 Masters of 20th Century Comics" exhibit in 2005, the same year he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2006 he was named to the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame. He was made an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2007 and voiced his character in an episode of “The Simpsons” in 2008. In fall 2011, Pantheon published Meta Maus, a companion to The Complete Maus – the story of why he wrote Maus. Meta Maus was been awarded the 2011 National Jewish Book Award. In 2015 he collaborated with renowned French artist JR on The Ghosts of Ellis Island. Spiegelman has also edited a new book about the artist Si Lewen titled Si Lewen’s Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey.
In 2011, he won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor. It included a retrospective of his artwork in the Pompidou Center and traveled to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Jewish Museum in New York, and the AGO Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2015 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Photo credit: Phil Penman Photography