Benjamin Rabier is one of the masters of early French comics and an animation pioneer, best known for his animal drawings. Born in La Roche Sur Yon as the son of a carpenter, he moved to Paris with his family at age 5. Although he won the first prize in a Parisian drawing competition twice (in 1879 and 1880), he started out working as a bookkeeper.
Chien, Chat, Miel et Prunes (Le Pêle-Mêle, 1900)
With the help of Caran d'Ache, his first drawings were published in magazines like La Chronique Amusante and Le Gil Blas Illustré. Until 1895, he earns most fame in England and the USA, where he draws for Scraps, Pictorial Comic Life and Puck magazine.
He got married in 1894 and settled in the Ségur region. It was at this time that he knew his first success in France. He became a regular contributor to the newspaper Le Rire, but he had his real breakthrough as one of the initial artists of Le Pêle Mêle in September 1895. He also drew for the magazines L'Assiette au Beurre and Le Chat Noir, as well the publications of Arthème Fayard (La Jeunesse Illustrée and Les Belles Images).
Le Déjeuner du Chemineau (Imagerie d'Epinal #2595)
He additionally contributed to the Images d'Epinal prints of Imagerie Pellerin. In 1898, he produced the book 'Tintin Lutin', which was an inspiration for Hergé, who named his famous character after it.
At the turn of the century, Rabier was an established artist, whose work in a great many publications. He began to produce more albums and illustrated the tales of La Fontaine. He also wrote theatre plays and did book illustrations. He had to quit his day job as a market inspector for medical reasons in 1910. From then on, he spent all his time on his artistic occupations.
Tintin Lupin (1898), perhaps the inspiration for Hergé's Tintin?
He began working in animation in 1916. He also worked in the advertising field. For example, he developed the famous cow logo of the cheese brand La Vache Qui Rit. In 1923 he created 'Gédéon', a goose whose adventures he drew until the end of his life. Sixteen books appeared between 1923 and 1939. In 1936, he went to work for British publishers again, illustrating several small books.
Le Pêle-Mêle (4 February 1900)