Born in Minden, Germany on April 22, 1887, Kurt Wiese wanted to be an artist at a very young age. At that time, however, making a living by one's art was virtually unheard of, so Wiese was sent to Hamburg to learn about the export trade to China. He arrived in China in 1909, shortly before the revolution of 1911 began. Nevertheless, he spent the next six years traveling and doing business in China. After Japan entered World War I, Wiese was captured by the Japanese, handed over to the British and sent to Australia, where he spent the next five years in the bush as a prisoner of war. It was during this period that he began to draw seriously. Three years after WWI, Wiese headed for Brazil, where he lived and worked illustrating school books and children's books for the next three years. He moved to the United States in 1927 and married Gertrude Hansen, a realtor, in 1930.
It was while living in the United States that Wiese began illustrating Walter R. Brooks Freddy the Pig books. Living on a farm in Frenchtown, New Jersey certainly helped to inspire him - Wiese had a particular affinity for drawing animals, and Freddy's adventures were the perfect outlet. The collaberation continued until Walter Brooks' death in 1958. Wiese continued to illustrate hundreds of books until his death in 1974.
Working primarily in full color, Wiese wrote and illustrated over 20 books for children and illustrated over 300 books written by other authors. Some of his early work was done directly on lithographic plates or on frosted plates, but he enjoyed working primarily in Chinese brushes and lithography.
Kurt Wiese was awarded many honors during his career including the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award in 1941 for Captain Kid's Cow, in 1942 for Lions on the Hunt, in 1945 for The Wizard and His Magic Powder. He received the Caldecott Honor Book Award in 1946 for You Can Write Chinese and in 1948 for Fish in the Air. He also won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1959 for The Five Chinese Brothers, in 1965 for The Story About Ping, and in 1970 for Honk, The Moose.Return to top.