Caroline Magerl is an award-winning and internationally distinguished illustrator, cartoonist and painter, who is now recognised as a unique and arresting presence. Her work spans from dark, enigmatic oil paintings, through incisive cartoons, to lively children’s book illustrations. It has been exhibited in a variety of galleries and art fairs and celebrated in numerous publications. Magerl’s book illustrations are a compelling combination of a child’s innocence and experience placed within a richly imagined world. They are produced with unusual craftsmanship by the use of pen and ink line and crosshatching imposed over softly vibrant watercolour washes. From this, a distinct and pleasingly playful sense of surrealism has emerged.
Caroline Magerl was born on 29 July 1964, in a small town called Griesheim, near Frankfurt, Germany.
Both her parents have worked within a creative field, exposing young Magerl to the arts from an early age. Her father was a yacht builder and musician, while her mother worked in retail, specialising in fashion. Two years after her birth, the family migrated to Australia, and settled on the fringes of suburban Sydney. In 1971, they set sail aboard the Rosa M, a yacht that her father had built in their backyard. They cruised the east coast of Australia for seven years; then, to her dismay, her father sold their floating home and relocated the family to a caravan, first on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and then in Brisbane. During this time her primary and secondary education was completed at 10 different schools. Then, at the age of 16, she left home to join another yacht crossing the Tasman Sea and reaching New Zealand. Upon her return to Australia, she found work as a cook while refining her self-taught artistry as a painter on the side.
In her twenties, Caroline Magerl began to receive recognition, as her cartoons and illustrations were published in international yachting magazines. Her drawings were informed by a darkly wry sense of humour, inspired from years of boating experience. She continued to work as a painter, illustrator and cartoonist, eventually gaining international success through her contributions to newspapers and magazines, in Australia, the United States and Europe, including among others, the Melbourne Sun Herald and Reader’s Digest.
In 1993, Caroline Magerl was accepted by the David Lewis Illustration Agency UK, which allowed her an opening into children’s literature. As a result, she pursued a long held desire to illustrate picture books, achieving an extensive and very impressive career in this field, while continuing her work as a fine artist exhibiting in several galleries and exhibitions worldwide, including the Eva Breuer Art Gallery in Australia and Debut Contemporary in London. In 2001, she was awarded the Crichton Award, presented by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, in recognition of her talent in the field of children’s book illustration. She was also the recipient of a grant from the Australian Council for the Arts to write and illustrate a children’s book in 2012, and more recently of a fellowship from the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. She lives in Queensland with her husband and daughter.
Caroline Magerl debuted at the Chris Beetles Gallery in 2014, when her drawings for Hasel and Rose (also known as Rose and Wish Thing) (2014) were shown in ‘The Illustrators’. The book received an award in 2017 from the Bank Street College of Education, New York, as one of the ‘Best Children’s Books of the Year’.
Her drawings for Maya and Cat (2018) were included in ‘The Illustrators’ at the Chris Beetles Gallery in 2018. The book was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award (Patricia Wrightson Prize) and was listed as a Notable Picture Book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia.
A selection of her drawings for Nop (2019) were included in ‘The Illustrators’ at the Chris Beetles Gallery in 2019, and the gallery gave the book its UK launch. In 2020, it was named as an Honour Book in the Picture Book Awards by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (meaning that it was judged one of the top three picture books of the year). It was also shortlisted for the Griffith University Children's Book Award in the Queensland Literary Awards, and has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Award 2021.
Caroline Magerl’s latest book, Piano Fingers, was published by Walker Books UK and Walker Books Australia in March 2022. For any creator or indeed any enthusiast of children’s literature and illustration, there are some destinations which stand out. One in particular is the Internationale Jugendbibliothek Children’s Library. This is housed in Munich’s Schloss Blutenberg. It is an extraordinary space where the library itself seems to have sprung from the pages of a book. Each year their language specialists (Lektoren) select 200 new releases from more than 50 countries in over 30 languages to curate ‘The White Ravens’ catalogue, a selection of international children's and youth Literature which is presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair each autumn. Caroline Magerl’s Piano Fingers was awarded a 2023 White Raven. The book was chosen for its universal theme and for its exceptional artistic and literary style.