Born in 1936, Grée studied at the Ecole des Arts Appliques and the Beaux Arts de Paris and from there went on to write and illustrate childrens books.
During the 1960s and 70s he published over 300 titles for publishers such as Casterman and Hachette and also created a range of educational board games for the Nathan company. It was in this period that his recognisably optimistic and richly-coloured style became apparent.
But Grée reached a point where he stopped working on these projects, however, as he was concerned he was repeating himself, as he explained in an interview published at alaingree.com.
“The same trees, the same animals, the same houses,” he says. “I had the impression that I was wasting my time, even though I still felt like explaining to children about the world around us, with images and words, in a clear way.
“A lot of my subjects couldn’t have been done if I would’ve had to illustrate them as well. Time passes very slowly if you draw with a lot of care.”
Fortunately for fans of his distinctive illustration work, Japanese publisher PIE has published a brilliantly-realised new book on his work.
The publication features hundreds of images and includes many examples of Grée’s original paintings, sketches and preparatory work.
There are chapters on picture books, activity books and games, roughs and storyboards, illustrations and advertising work, plus an interview and biography (the text throughout is in Japanese, though most captions also appear in English).
Grée’s illustrations will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the medium as it developed in the 1960s.
The dotted eyes and cheeks of his characters have a distinctive appeal all their own and show how much the contemporary folk style of recent years owes to the Frenchman and the world he created.
Alain Grée – Works by the French Illustrator from the 1960s-70s is published by PIE Books. It is currently available in the UK from Counter-Print (£25 plus p&p). See counter-print.co.uk. Grée’s website is at alaingree.com