Jean de Brunhoff (December 9, 1899 – October 16, 1937) was a French writer and illustrator known for creating the Babar books, the first of which appeared in 1931.
He was the fourth and youngest child of Maurice de Brunhoff, a publisher, and his wife Marguerite. He attended Protestant schools, including the prestigious Ecole Alsacienne. Brunhoff joined the army and reached the front lines when World War I was almost over. Afterwards, he decided to be a professional artist and studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. In 1924 he married Cécile Sabouraud, a talented pianist, and they had two sons Laurent and Mathieu in 1925 and 1926; a third son, Thierry, was born nine years later.
The Babar books began as a bedtime story Cécile de Brunhoff (née Sabouraud) invented for their children, Mathieu and Laurent, when they were four and five years old, respectively. She was trying to comfort Mathieu, who was sick. The boys liked the story of the little elephant who left the jungle for a city resembling Paris so much that they took it to their father, a painter, and asked him to illustrate it. He turned it into a picture book, with text, which was published by a family-run publishing house, Le jardin des modes. Originally, it was planned that the book’s title page would describe the story as told by Jean and Cécile de Brunhoff. However, she had her name removed. Due to the role she played in the genesis of the Babar story, many sources continue to refer to her as the creator of the Babar story.
After the first book Histoire de Babar (The Story of Babar), six more titles followed before Jean de Brunhoff died of tuberculosis at the age of 37. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.