Gustaf Tenggren was born November 3, 1896 in Vastergotland, Sweden. His early schooling and artistic influences were solidly grounded in Scandinavian techniques, motifs, and myths. At the age of 20, he succeeded John Bauer as the illustrator for Bland Tomtar och Troll (Among Elves and Trolls), a famous Swedish Christmas annual for children. He illustrated fairy tales by Swedish artists in The Annual from 1917 through 1926, and during this period, he also illustrated Andersen's Fairy Tales for a publisher in Denmark. In 1920, he immigrated to the U.S., to Cleveland, and then in 1922, moved to New York. By 1923, Tenggren’s artwork had appeared in Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, D'Aulnoy's Fairy Tales, A Boy of the Lost Crusade, “The Christ Story” for Boys and Girls, and Heidi.
In 1936, Tenggren went to work for Walt Disney. You can see his work throughout Snow White and in many of the richly detailed urban backgrounds of Pinocchio, for which his Scandinavian heritage and experience were obviously drawn upon. His Arthur Rackham-esque trees featured prominently in the Snow White forest scenes. As significant and powerful as his Disney work turned out to be, he emerged from the experience in 1939 and returend to book illustration.