úterý 14. října 2014

Art for the Children




The poster was the first thing that caught my eye
Image courtesy of  http://www.en.nkp.cz







 Yesterday I took the girls out, I take them regularly and every so often I try to make sure they get bit of “high” culture adequate to their age. Today after a short stroll around the old town we went to the children’s exhibit of Vojtěch Kubašta. The exhibit which ends in the first week of November is in the scholarly rooms of the Klementinum. Mr. Kubašta was a Czech illustrator whose work I have been familiar with since childhood but whom I have known very little about till today
Born in Vienna at the outbreak of WWI, he would go on to study architecture in Prague the city he had moved to as a child. Working most of his life under communism he was a prolific commercial artist as well as illustrator.



One of his early illustrations
Image courtesy of   http://www.oldchildrensbooks.com




 The exhibit mapped the entire scope of his oeuvre from   pop-up Christmas paper crèches of the 1950’s to pictures aimed at an adult public  and his work for children’s books, which is best known for.His forte were pop up publications , mainly crèches and children’s book, some of the Christmas crèches originally  designed at the lowest point  in Czechoslovak communist history were made to bring a bit of children’s romance into a world  which was otherwise pretty dreary  and gray. I particularly l of an exotic nativity  scene with the three kings in Jerusalem complete with palm trees but which had a brown snow covered tower of the Charles bridge in the background. Many of his popup books are colourful and humorous with the texts written in German, English or even French.



A whimsical popup
Image courtesy of  http://www.baumanrarebooks.com



I personally remember many of these books from my own childhood either as ones my mother used to have as a child or those my friends had.  I also  recognized one or two books I had as a child which evoked memories of trips to the glass Albatros building on the corner of  Národní třída to buy  English books printed in Czechoslovakia.

  


One of the books that I had, some serious stuff
Image courtesy of http://archiv.aukro.cz




My only regret was that the exhibit did not allow children to touch orread these wonderful paper creations which so many have enjoyed over decades. 


     


 Křemílek a Vochomůrku in autumn
 Image courtesy of  http://www.pohadkar.cz




                  The other show I took the girls to recently was the Křemílek a Vochomůrku exhibit in the Kampa Musuem. Although finished now it was a pleasant addition to the   summer calendar when many regular venues for kids are closed. The exhibit which presents the work of Zdeněk Smetana done for the legendary Křemílek and Vochomůrka “večerníček”, which for most Czechs is linked to the voice of Jiřina Bohdalová.

The exhibit itself
Image courtesy of  http://www.tyden.cz



 The Kampa Museum has had a number of exhibits aimed at a children’s audience, one of the few museums on Prague to do so regularly. Always housed in the smaller gallery building, they are generally intimate and focused on a particular artist. On this occasion visitors got a chance to see the illustrations of numerous characters from this iconic cartoon. Many of the illustrations are inspired by nature and always have specific characteristics children tend to remember well. Mr. Smetana’s style is somewhat naïve and a contrast to the more bucolic style used in animation today. My nieces instantly recognized number of depictions even though I myself had grown up watching these animated bedtime stories .


          

Most of Mr.Smetana’s characters came in pairs 
Image courtesy of  http://www.cojeco.cz/




Smetana belongs to the post-war generation Czechoslovak artists who along with colleagues like Adolf Born, Zdeněk Miler or Květa Pacovská helped create a fantasy world of children’s fairytales in books. Each working in their own specific style or medium they all made images   that were familiar to children both in Czechoslovakia and abroad through books and cartoons. This period marked one of the golden ages  of art for  children  in Czechoslovakia. This is also why many of the first editions of these books are highly sought after by collectors today.