Unidentified photographer, Madeleine Wormser Gekiere, ca. 1950s. Courtesy of the blog “Vintage Children’s Books My Kid Loves.”
Madeleine Wormser Gekiere, Family Tree, 1955. Ink, 12 ½ x 11 in. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Doris Meltzer and the National Serigraph Society, BMA 1955.230. Photography by: Mitron Hood

95. Madeleine Wormser Gekiere

Life Dates1919-2014
Place of BirthZurich, Switzerland
Place of DeathNew York, NY, USA
Birth NameMarie Madeleine Wormser

Marie Madeleine Wormser was born in Zurich, Switzerland. Though she was not a practicing Jew, she fled Switzerland due to fears of religious persecution from the Nazis.1 She graduated high school in 1938, and her family moved to England, where she studied briefly at the Slade School.2 Together with her parents, Richard and Erna, she emigrated to the United States in the summer of 1940. In New York, she aspired to be a fashion artist and studied at the Art Students League (spring of 1941) and at the Brooklyn Museum School.3 The artist made several transatlantic voyages back to Europe in the mid-1940s, but she ultimately became naturalized American citizen in 1945.4 She had her debut exhibition at the Bonestell Gallery in March 1948, where she showed bright canvases that Judith Kay Reed of Art Digest praised as bright and modernist, influenced by Cubism but still marked by “personal distinction.”5 Wormser became a member of Atelier 17 sometime before the studio’s group show at the Laurel Gallery in 1949, when she exhibited an engraving and soft ground etching titled Two Ladies. Although no surviving impressions of the artist’s prints have been located, it is clear that the linearity of engraving appealed to her given her ensuing work in book illustration. She is best known under her married name, Gekiere, as the illustrator of many children’s books, plays, and poetry volumes, including most famously the illustrations for Ray Bradbury’s Switch on the Night (1955).6 Gekiere also made experimental films in the 1970s and 1980s and taught for many years at City College of New York.7

Selected Bibliography

Bradbury, Ray. Switch on the Night. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. New York: Pantheon Books, 1955.

Chase, Mary. Mrs. McThing: A Play.  Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere and Helen Sewell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1952.

Ciardi, John. John J. Plenty and Fiddler Dan: A New Fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co, 1963.

———. The Reason for the Pelican. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959.

Engelhard, Georgia. Peterli and the Mountain. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1954.

Gekiere, Madeleine. The Frilly Lily and the Princess. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960.

———. Who Gave Us … Peacocks? Planes? & Ferris Wheels? New York: Pantheon Books, 1953.

Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Grimm’s Tales. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. New York: Oxford University Press, 1954.

Helm, Ruth H. Mr. Putterbee’s Jungle. Illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere. New York: Oxford University Press, 1953.


  1. In her interview with Burgin Streetman, Wormser Gekiere stated, “It looked liked Switzerland might be invaded. We were Jews, not in any sense of believing, but as you know, the Germans didn’t make a difference.” Burgin Streetman, “Meet Madeleine Gekiere,” June 12, 2012, accessed November 3, 2018.
  2. The Slade School of Fine Art does not have a registry file or index card for Marie Madeleine Wormser. Because she was there during the war, when the school was evacuated to Oxford, it is possible the records are lost. It is also possible she only took a handful of evening classes and never registered as a student. Robert Winckworth, Senior Library Assistant, UCL Special Collections, to Christina Weyl, November 14, 2018.
  3. Streetman, “Meet Madeleine Gekiere.” Student registration card, Art Students League of New York.
  4. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007).
  5. Judith Kaye Reed, “Madeleine Wormser Debuts,” Art Digest, March 1, 1948, 24–25.
  6. Nothing much is known about Chicago-born René-Gustave Gekiere. His parents were transplants from Belgium, and in the 1930s census he is listed as a salesman in the field of “fanning.”
  7. Three of Wormser Gekiere’s films are in the collection of the New York Public Library: Three Accelerations (M16 2543 T), Horizontal Transfer (M16 A-355 H), and The Breakable Spaces between (M16 3636 B).