San Diego, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
Born in San Diego, California, in 1908. Painter, lithographer. Active in New York City. Frequent subjects of Freeman's included Broadway theater, politics, and the circus. Freeman was known for carrying a sketchbook with him wherever he went. His images depicted New York City, and the faces of the people he observed on the streets, in the theaters, and in the subways. They often included images of showgirls, Bowery Boys, drunks, apple sellers, window washers and numerous citizens of the city that were down on their luck. Freeman was also a jazz musician and the brother of hotel entrepreneur Warren Freeman. As Freeman's career progressed, he lightened his palette and depicted more upbeat subjects. In 1951, he began illustrating children's books. His wife, Lydia, who was also an accomplished artist, authored the books Freeman illustrated. The Freemans eventually moved to Santa Barbara, California, where they spent the remainder of their lives. Don Freeman was first introduced to children's literature when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate several books. However, his greatest influence came from the artist Honoré Daumier. Freeman studied many of Daumier’s works as well as possessed a large collection of books on the artist. Throughout Don Freeman’s career he was the author and illustrator of over 20 children’s books. He is best known for his publication of Corduroy. Although he came up with many of his ideas on his own, his wife Lydia Freeman contributed greatly to his success, having co-authored two books with him, including Chuggy and the Blue Caboose and Pet of the Met. She was very influential to her husband's work, as he relied on her for inspiration for his pieces. He would read his work aloud to her as well as any children around in order to gain feedback on a particular piece. She too became a well-known artist in her later life. “Simplicity is the essence of children’s-book stories, not simple-mindedness,” Don Freeman once stated when speaking to an audience that was interested in writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books. Freeman also drew cartoons for magazines and newspapers, including the Herald Tribune, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Theater Magazine.