This page is brought to you in partnership with the Museum of Czech Literature (PNP). The PNP was established to acquire, gather, permanently safekeep, catalogue, scientifically process, and make available collections of material that documents the development of literature and literary culture in the Czech lands from the 18th century until present.
Zdeněk Sklenář (1910–1986)
Painter, graphic artist, typographer.
His fine-art and illustrative work was radically influenced by a visit to China in the 1950s. His original style of painting and graphic work was based on a synthesis of the European and Chinese cultural traditions, linking realism with abstraction and eastern calligraphy with modern painting. He used this style in the illustrations for Eduard Petiška’s Ancient Greek Myths and Legends. Sklenář made his name primarily as an illustrator of classical Chinese literature, thanks to which he also played a positive part in the history of the most beautiful books competition. He was awarded first prize in this category in 1967 for his illustrations for the book Songs of Ancient China. He illustrated the famous Chinese novel The Monkey King in a unique way. Both of these publications were brought out in re-issues after many years and met with great acclaim at exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai.
Zdenek Seydl (1916–1978)
Painter, graphic designer, typographer, costume designer, stage designer.
A versatile artist with great inventiveness. With his interpretation he changed the overall form of the Czech book and also significantly influenced the development of Czech illustration. Here he employed his distinctive vision of the world, similar to a child’s view, his instinct for unrestricted play and his flexible approach to individual literary projects. He developed a distinctive form of caricature and it is no wonder that subjects of a humorous, ironic and saracastic nature particularly suited him. He illustrated in an unforgettable way the classic French satirical novel Gargantua and Pantagruel, the poems of Christian Morgenstern and the Flemish novelistic fresco Thyl Ulenspiegel.
Zdeněk Sýkora (1920–2011)
Painter, graphic artist and architect.
An internationally acclaimed artist who was one of the pioneers of the use of computers in the creation of artworks. He was a leading representative of geometric abstraction. Although illustration represents just one chapter in Sýkora’s body of work, his contribution in this area was dynamic and trailblazing. In 1999 he started working with the publishing house Aulos, for whom he created colour serigraphs for several fine-press works. He transcended the traditional understanding of this genre, linking abstract form with classical works of Czech poetry. With the same touch of genius he illustrated the Cosmic Songs by Jan Neruda and May by Karel Hynek Mácha. He created a unique graphic equivalent of a dialogue between the astrophysicists Hawking and Penrose in the book The Nature of Space and Time.
Stanislav Kolíbal (* 1925)
Painter, graphic artist, sculptor, stage designer, conceptual artist.
He enriched Czech book illustration with his timeless interpretation. His innovative approach to the illustration of the book The Fairy Tale Tree (1958–59) provoked fierce debate. He turned away from traditionalism, descriptiveness and photographism. He based his illustrative approach on abbreviating and suggesting, depicting key moments in the plot, capturing action and evoking a certain feeling. Through the illustrations he invites the reader to enter into dialogue and gives him scope for his own imagination. He approaches every literary subject in a different way, always searching for a different solution which will enable him to best capture the essence of the text.
Květa Pacovská (* 1928)
Painter, sculptress, graphic artist, illustrator, graphic designer, conceptual artist.
In the 1980s she was mainly involved in illustrating children’s books. At that time she was already adopting an unconventional approach. Her distinctive flat, stylized illustrations based on a lively imagination accompany a number of books for children with graphic design by Milan Grygar. After 1989 she became well known abroad, primarily as a creator of experimental artist’s books for children and adults. It was in this area that she received the highest international recognition (Hans Christian Andersen Award, 1992, Goldene Letter /The Most Beautiful Book in the World/, 1993). Since the 90s she has occasionally collaborated with the publishing house Aulos, which provides her with scope for her complex experimental approach to the book.
Jiří Šalamoun (* 1935)
Graphic artist, illustrator, typographer, creator of animated films.
Book illustration represents the core of his creative activities. His basic means of expression is drawing, characterized by a specific caricatured stylization based on deliberate naivety. Much of his inspiration comes from manifestations of traditional folk entertainment along the lines of the carnival, fair or fete. At the same time, he also has a strong interest in film – especially farce. He therefore applies some typical film techniques in his illustration, such as story-boarding action, dramatic gradation, inserting scenes, editing, action, emphasis on gestures, expressions and posture. He has drawn hundreds of illustrations which have accompanied a wide range of Czech and international works of literature for readers of all age categories.
František Skála jr. (* 1956)
Painter, sculptor, illustrator, musician, performer.
He has been involved in illustration since the early 1980s. He takes a particular interest in illustrating children’s books, which allows him to utilize his talent for spontaneous play, rich imagination and poetic originality, combining real and dreamlike elements. He creates magical images full of mystery, which evoke memories of childhood and provide scope for the reader’s own imagination and further development of ideas.
František Skála is also the author of one of the first modern Czech comic books, entitled The Great Travels of Hair and Chin, which was published by Albatros publishers in 1989 and adapted as a puppet show in 2007.
In total he has illustrated more than twenty books, many of which have won prestigious awards in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Michal Cihlář (* 1960)
Graphic artist, illustrator, typographer, collage artist, photographer, creator of installations.
He chose the traditional and laborious method of multi-colour linocut as his main means of expression, and it is this medium which he also employs in his illustrations. He places emphasis on the precise mastery of technique, and from a stylistic point of view he favours an extremely realistic approach. However, his detailed depiction of fragments of reality also contains fantastical elements, and sometimes witty allusions, which lend the image a certain suspense or a specifically humorous expression.
Although his illustration work accompanies literature of a prose nature, it has a wide range, from a collection of short stories by Salman Rushdie to travelogues for adults and children.
Petr Nikl (* 1960)
Painter, graphic artist, illustrator, creator of installations, visual artist.
His illustrations are not about a transcription, commentary or interpretation of the text but an organic mingling of two worlds – the literary and the artistic. The basic principle of his work is uninterrupted, spontaneous play. He regards illustration as an equivalent to the literary text with equal value, which is why he needs the freedom required for independent expression in his work. He conceives of the book as a work of art, as a complex medium which appeals to all the senses. His most important work has been in the area of the artist’s book for children and their parents. In this regard an instrumental role has been played by the publishing house Meander, which has brought out a series of remarkable artist’s books by Petr Nikl, in which he has made use of his skills as a writer and artist at the same time.
Chrudoš Valoušek (* 1960)
Graphic artist, illustrator, painter, sculptor, depository administator.
He is an author with a sense of the absurd aspects of human existence. His view of the world is incisive, direct, daring and provocative. He has devoted himself intensively to linocut and woodcut, and it is within these techniques that his characteristic signature has taken shape – bold, based on sharp lines and multi-coloured areas of colour. His method of depiction has something in common with the original culture of Native Americans and Eskimos and also refers to expressionist trends in modern art. He also creates unusual, mostly full-page illustrations for his own and other texts in the same style. He incorporates hand-made cut-out lettering into his artist’s books. He is a core author of the publishing house Baobab and thanks to this cooperation he has also received a number of important awards for book illustration.