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2 3 Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
i l l u s t r a r i u m
SovietEdited by Giedrė Jankevičiūtė
Soviet Lithuanian Children's Book Illustration
4 5 ContentsLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
In the Framework of Socialist Realism 12
Children’s Book Illustration during the 1960s and 1970s 34
Memories of Books from a Soviet Childhood 40
From the Treasury of Folk Art 122
Children’s Book Illustration and the Stagnation of the Brezhnev Era 148
Artists’ Biographies 168
6 7 Preface Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
The façade of the State Library (by the architect Viktoras Anikinas; now the National Martynas Mažvydas Library), which opened in Vilnius in 1963. Photograph by Ilja Fišeris, Lithuanian Central State Archives
Why Show Soviet Lithuanian Children’s Book Illustration at Bologna?
There is no need to introduce Lithuania or its leading children’s book illustrators
at Bologna. Visitors to the fair are already familiar with Kęstutis Kasparavičius,
they know the work created by Agnes Indre and Rimvydas Kepežinskas, and
have heard of Irena Daukšaitė-Guobienė and Leonardas Gutauskas. Children’s
book publishers, artists and editors of the older generation still remember
the legendary pair of artists Birutė Žilytė (b. 1930) and Algirdas Steponavičius
(1927–1996). Today we can discover a new relevance in work by artists who
established themselves in the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition of graphic work
8 9 Preface Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
by Žilytė which was shown at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius in 2010 was
received with immense interest. Steponavičius is the key to understanding the
entire generation of contemporary book illustrators. He set a standard for the most
talented of his generation (such as Aspazija Surgailienė), and for younger graphic
artists such as Lidija Glinskienė and Petras Repšys. He was indirectly a teacher for
Stasys Eidrigevičius, who matured as an artist in Lithuania before continuing his
career after 1980 in Poland. Žilytė and Steponavičius, their contemporaries, and
their younger followers represent an entire epoch of Lithuanian culture. We can
only start to learn about it here in Lithuania, while beyond, it appears to be almost
entirely a terra incognita. At the same time, it is a part of the life that was lived
out in the huge area of Europe which lay to the east of divided Berlin. The 2009
exhibition Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970, curated by David Crowley and Jane
Pavitt, which came to the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius from the Victoria and
Albert Museum in London, demonstrated clearly that we are only just beginning to
discover the artistic culture of the “Socialist bloc”. The need to return to the artistic
heritage of the Soviet times happily coincided with Lithuania’s presentation at
Bologna and encouraged deeper studies of children’s book illustrations – a narrow,
but extremely important part of this heritage.
The illustrations in children’s books mirror numerous facets of the now-gone
Soviet life. The content of these stories and pictures reveals how ideas and values
based on Soviet ideology were instilled in little readers; but we can also see that
there were alternatives, in the form of Lithuanian translations of world classics,
or the charming tales written by Lithuanian authors about the lives of little hares,
mushrooms, fantastic creatures and even normal Lithuanian girls and boys who
were unaware of politics. Illustrations in children’s books shared images of the
everyday world, from which we can learn about fashions and styles, customs and
routines, pastimes and holidays, and changes in the landscape and the cityscape.
As a visual document of a recently disappeared epoch, they are interesting and
appealing to everyone. For art historians and artists, the illustrations to children’s
books produced in Lithuania, and across the entire Soviet cultural space, are a
veritable anthology of the history of art, in which we can trace the methods and
forms employed to cast art in the Soviet mould, and, at the same time, see attempts
to resist the prescribed norms of Socialist Realism. Printers may find that the
exhibition of books produced in Soviet Lithuania teaches them something about
a particular period in the history of 20th-century printing, demonstrating clearly
the dire consequences of the Socialist economy.
Children’s book illustration was a second-rate genre within the hierarchy of Soviet
art. Artists who were employed in this field had to accept a humbler place in the
pantheon of Soviet culture, and could not expect to get the same attention that was
lavished by the establishment on the creators of grand monuments and canvases.
On the other hand, they had better opportunities to experiment. From time to
time, their little readers suffered because of these experiments, for instead of sweet
pictures they received a dose of Modernist art, which was if not intimidating then at
least difficult for children’s imaginations to appreciate. But in the broader context
of Lithuanian culture, these experiments by book illustrators were stimulating and
encouraged an interest in invention.
When illustrated children’s books from the Soviet period were retrieved from
storage (children’s books, of course, and not ones for young adults, with their
modest black and white illustrations), they revealed a different epoch to what we
usually imagine when we paint it in sombre colours or when we otherwise overrate
the artistic experiment or its role. It turns out that the bleak years of Stalin’s rule,
although permeated with Soviet ideas, contained, along with the ideology, real
joy and beauty. There was room for fairy tales, for bright colours and miracles.
The “Khrushchev Thaw” had very little of the imagined “extreme Modernity”. It
offered audacious technological utopias, dressed in more or less modern apparel,
which we viewed with amazement and with a smile; but it failed to build up the
critical mass necessary to give a boost to the exhausted economy and to lift the
regimented Soviet life out of its stagnation. These processes are reflected in the
historic development of children’s book illustrations: vivid attempts at the genre’s
modernization of the 1960s were followed by a long period of “silent speaking”.
Even the most creative individuals had great difficulty in resisting the depressing
atmosphere of Brezhnev’s times. Artists of the period refer to themselves as
“orphans”, complaining that they were deprived of teachers and good examples
to emulate or even oppose, since around 1980 the concept of Socialist Realism was
diluted and stripped of its landmarks and normative character. Examples from
the 1980s illustrate how prolonged restrictions and oppression eventually drain
an abused culture of its vitality and potential, of its power; while on the other
hand, under these conditions, the greatest talents pull themselves together and
10 11 Preface Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
seek even more aggressively “cultural nourishment”, a lifeline to sustain their
The exhibition’s working title was Escape to Childhood: Soviet Lithuanian
Children’s Book Illustration. The presentation of illustrations from children’s books
from Soviet Lithuania between 1945 and 1990 aims to provide a general context
showing the most interesting work from the foremost Lithuanian illustrators, and,
as much as is possible in an exhibition, the context in which these books emerged
and were read. We have attempted to organise the material according to four
themes: the children’s book as a mouthpiece for propaganda, the children’s book
as a means of sustaining the national identity, the children’s book as a window to
the West, and the child’s world as it emerges in the illustration of children’s books.
Originals of books and illustrations are on view, while the catalogue includes
photographs from the period reflecting the lives of children and the atmosphere,
and posters which accompanied children’s cultural life. The insert Memories of
Books from a Soviet Childhood in the second part of the catalogue explains the
functioning and the “use” of illustrated children’s books through the memories of
several people who grew up in Soviet Lithuania and who later embarked on careers
connected with the creation, research or promotion of artistic activity, either in art,
literature, theatre, music or architecture.
In designing the exhibition and its catalogue, the curators Giedrė Jankevičiūtė and
Jolita Liškevičienė have been supported by an entire team. Sigutė Chlebinskaitė and
the curators took part in the creation of the initial concept for the exhibition. The
coordination work has been carried out by the International Cultural Programme
Centre, headed by Saulė Mažeikaitė, with Kristina Agintaitė directly responsible
for Lithuania’s participation in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The exhibition’s
design and its realisation is the work of the architects Rokas Kilčiauskas, Austė
Kuliešiūtė and Miglė Nainytė from Processoffice. The design of the catalogue is by
Gedas Čiuželis, and the series of publications printed on the occasion of Lithuania’s
participation as Guest of Honour at the Bologna Book Fair is by Jokūbas Jacovskis
and the company Interse. The catalogue features photographs by Algimantas
Kunčius, alongside documentary photographs from the Lithuanian Central State
Archives. Vaidotas Aukštaitis from the Lithuanian Art Museum, Arūnas Baltėnas
and Valdas Vilutis helped in preparing illustration material for the exhibition and
the catalogue. Illustrations for the exhibition have been loaned and reproduced in
the catalogue courtesy of the artists Stasys Eidrigevičius, Lidija Glinskienė, Kęstutis
Kasparavičius, Rimvydas Kepežinskas, Marija Ladigaitė-Vildžiūnienė, Arvydas
Každailis, Petras Repšys, Aspazija Surgailienė, Vladas Vildžiūnas and Birutė Žilytė.
The works by Albina Makūnaitė have been used courtesy of the artist’s daughter
Skaidrė Urbonienė, and those by Algirdas Steponavičius courtesy of his widow Birutė
Žilytė. Some of the illustrations have been loaned by the Lithuanian Literature and
Art Archive, the book collection is from the National Martynas Mažvydas Library.
The images of Soviet-period books displayed in the digital photo frame, were taken
by Mindaugas Ažušilis.
12 13 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
In the Framework of Socialist Realism
Girls from Vilnius Children’s Home No 6 playing in the yard. 1947. Photograph by L. Meinertas, Lithuanian Central State Archives
The fi rst postwar decade (1944–1954), which is known as the “Stalin era”, saw a relati-
vely small number of children’s books published in Lithuania. They were mostly
small-format paperbacks, although a few were printed on quality paper and bound
in hardback. Most of the illustrations in these books are not very accomplished, and
they are rather eclectic in terms of style. Lithuania clearly lacked experts in Socialist
Realism. The fi rst of these books were illustrated by artists who had begun their
careers before the war, and tried cautiously to apply their previously developed
means of expression in the new era. Therefore, illustrations to the fi rst Soviet
14 15 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
children’s books feature a mixture of Art Deco (Telesforas Kulakauskas, Filomena
Ušinskaitė), naive Realism (Vincas Dilka, Rimtas Kalpokas) and folk stylisation
Until 1949, the main publishers were in Kaunas, the second largest city in Soviet
Lithuania, and the interim capital of prewar independent Lithuania. Most children’s
books were published by Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla (the State Publisher
of Fiction), which was founded in 1945. It was headed by Valys Drazdauskas, a left-
leaning writer, translator and intellectual. The situation changed in the late 1940s.
Drazdauskas was deported to the gulag, the publishing company was relocated
to Vilnius, and young artists who were beginning to master the basics of Socialist
Realism graduated from art schools.
The examples offered to writers and illustrators to follow were translations from
Russian, illustrated by Russian artists and aimed at educating “Lenin’s grandchildren”.
The Lithuanians tried to produce books similar to these. Today, these books are a
valuable visual source for those who are interested in history. The realistic illustrations,
resembling documentary photographs, show Vilnius being rebuilt after the war,
typical scenes of daily life, new agricultural equipment, and newly built factories in
Soviet Lithuania. For instance, the cover by Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė for the
book „The Pioneer Train“ (1953) by Valerija Valsiūnienė about a children’s railway that
opened in Vingis Park in Vilnius the same year carries what is probably one of the
last Lithuanian images of Stalin (in 1956, the public dissemination of images of the
dictator, who had died in 1953, was banned). The picture book „My Day“ by Petrikaitė-
Tulienė (1958) is an illustrated guide for the ideal 1950s mother, and an illustration of
a child’s everyday life in postwar Lithuania. It was published by Pedagogical Literature
Publishers (Pedagoginės literatūros leidykla).
A combination of ideology and entertainment, which was typical of Soviet
publications for children, emerges in children’s periodicals, especially in the
illustrated magazines for younger readers (children under 12 years old). The
publication of the children’s magazine Genys (The Woodpecker) was interrupted
during the war years, and only resumed in 1954. However, the magazine for young
adults called Lietuvos pionierius (The Lithuanian Pioneer) was published from 1946.
These periodicals reached a wide audience, as parents with limited means could
not buy books for their children, and the smaller libraries would not receive all the
books that were published, but all schools and even the most remote libraries in the
countryside subscribed to Genys and Lietuvos pionierius. The periodicals complied
with Soviet ideology. The first pages of Genys always carried didactic stories about
Soviet history or Soviet life, which were fully illustrated. They were followed by
pages featuring more diverse material, which was livelier and struck a lighter note.
Needless to say, most of the writings and illustrations produced during the first
Soviet decades told of a happy, just and comfortable life in a Soviet country; but
Lithuanian children also had opportunities to experience the totally different world
of the romantic fairy tale. Books by Soviet Russian authors were not the only ones
to be translated: children could also read about the twists and turns in the fates
of the characters created by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Perrault, and admire the classic
illustrations by Adrienne Ségur, and also those by artists of new Lithuania such as
Petrikaitė-Tulienė. They could enjoy the adventures of the simple and naïve characters
in children’s books, such as hares, cats, wolves, witches and elves. All fairy tales were
much sought after, and had a huge readership. As soon as the sombre postwar decade
drew to an end, illustrated children’s books started appearing across the entire Soviet
Union, like the first buds of a mass culture. In Lithuania, all records for popularity
were beaten by the tale in verse „Puikis the Hare“ written by Eduardas Mieželaitis,
who was then a young poet, with illustrations by Vaclovas Kosciuška that resembled
cartoons. The book had first been published in 1949, but the original drab illustrations
by Rimtas Kalpokas did not appeal much to readers. In 1955, it was published with new
illustrations by Kosciuška, and became a bestseller. The first print run quickly sold out
and it was reprinted. It was also translated into Polish and Russian, the languages of
Lithuania’s national minorities. Its success came, of course, not only from the quality
of the verse and the illustrations, but also for the simple reason that the choice of
children’s books in Lithuania during the entire Soviet period was very limited.
16 17 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Filomena Ušinskaitė The cover for the fairy tale in verse Našlaitė (The Orphan) by Salomėja Nėris (Kaunas: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1947)
During the postwar years, children’s books were at first mostly illustrated by artists who had begun
their careers in independent Lithuania. Publishers were not too keen to make them change and adopt
the style of Socialist Realism. They published books that were foreign to communist ideology,
and formed a continuity with the artistic principles of the interwar period. Some of the books
were clearly based on the principles of the “bourgeois” Art Deco style: they showed typical prewar
Lithuanian children and their daily life, such Ąsotėlis (The Little Jug) by Kazys Papečkys.
Telesforas Kulakauskas The cover for the tale Limpopo. Daktaro Aiskau-dos nuotykiai pagal Kornejų Čiukovskį (Limpopo. The Adventures of Dr Aiskauda, after the poem by Kornejus Čiukovskis) by Kazys Binkis (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1949; print run 20,000 copies)
18 19 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Vincas Dilka The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for one of the first ideologically charged postwar books for Soviet Lithuanian children, the collected poems Aš jau ne pipiras (I’m not a Tiny Tot any more) by Eduardas Mieželaitis (Kaunas: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1947)
Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė The cover and illustrated double-page spread for the collection of verse Ąsotėlis (The Little Jug) by Kazys Papečkys (Kaunas: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1947)
20 21 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Rimtas Kalpokas An illustrated double-page spread for Eugenijus Matuzevičius’ poem Mes gyvenam prie marių (We Live by the Sea; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1953)
Additional content to these illustrations is given by inscriptions expressing the spirit of the times:
the slogan Stalinas – taika (Stalin is Peace) in a fish-packing department, well-dressed children
wearing red Pioneers’ ties busily unload fish from a fishing vessel named after the German communist
Ernst Thälmann (Telmanas in Lithuanian).
Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė A double-page spread for the book of verse Geroji dienelė (The Good Day) by the Russian poet Samuil Marshak, with the illustra-tions to the poem Mūsų herbas (Our State Emblem), expressing the idea of the united Soviet home-land (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1949)
22 23 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė The cover and two illustrated double-page spreads for Valerija Valsiūnienė‘s poem Pionierių traukinys (The Pioneer Train; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1953)
The first double-page spread shows the “little furnace-stokers” of the train, and renovation
work in the centre of postwar Vilnius, at the crossing of Gediminas Avenue and Vilnius Street,
recently renamed Stalin Avenue and Liudas Gira Street (after a Lithuanian writer well known for
his Soviet sympathies). The second shows familiar buildings in Moscow, the capital of the Soviet
Union: the Lenin University and the Kremlin.
The opening of a children’s railway in Vingis Park in Vilnius: the first train leaves the station on 14 June 1953. Photograph by L. Meinertas. Lithuanian Central State Archives
24 25 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Vytautas Banys The cover and an illustra-tion to the collection of poems Erškėtrožė (Sweet Briar) by Antanas Jonynas (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1959)
An illustration to the poem „Visada pasiryžus“ (Always Ready) depicts clearly the content of the
poem: Aš nuščiuvusioj salėj / Prieš rikiuotę sustoju, / Savo gimtajai šaliai / Pirmąsyk saliutuoju. //
Ne kaklaraištis naujas / Ant krūtinės man žėri, – / Tai karštos širdies kraujas; / Aš dabar – pionierė
(In a hushed hall / I stand in front of a line / And for the first time / Salute my homeland. //
It is not a red tie / That burns brightly on my breast, / It is blood from my flaming heart; /
For now I am a Young Pioneer).
Domicelė Tarabildienė The cover and two illustrated double-page spreads for the poem Tavo bičiulis (Your Pal) by Eduardas Mieželaitis (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1951)
Contrasting illustrations show the hard life of a little boy called Li in Shanghai under the parasitic
rule of rich white Americans, and his regained dignity as a Young Pioneer, ready to put into practice
the ideas of Stalin and Mao.
26 27 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
The children’s poem „Laiškas draugui Stalinui“ (Letter to Comrade Stalin) was intended to teach
young readers respect for and boundless loyalty to the dictator of the Soviet Union: Draugas Stalinai!
/ Šiandien respublikoj didelė šventė, – / Savo laisvės dešimtmet į / Mini lietuvių tauta. / Ačiū tau, kuris
mano Tėvynę vargingą / Prikėlei gyventi! / Tau pirmajam už tai / Mano meilės daina paskirta
(Comrade Stalin! / Today is a great holiday in our republic, / A ten-year anniversary / Is celebrated
by the Lithuanian nation. / Thanks to you, my poor homeland / Has risen to a new life / You are
the first to receive / My love song for this).
The cover and a double-page spread for the ideologically charged collection of prose and poetry Rinktinė vaikams. 10 metų tarybų Lietuvai (A Collection for Children. Soviet Lithuania is Ten Years Old; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1951). The cover is by Domicelė Tarabildienė and a double-page spread with an extra ct from the poem Laiškas draugui Stalinui (A Letter to Comrade Stalin) by Antanas Jonynas is illustrated by Valerijonas Galdikas
A room of young nature lovers in Children’s Home No 5 in Kaunas, 1950. Photograph by S. Raskinas. Lithuanian Central State Archives
28 29 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
In Mano dienelė (My Day), the modern reader can find a portrayal of a child’s daily life in
an affluent urban Lithuanian family of the 1950s. The book faithfully depicts typical examples
of the architecture, transport, clothes, food and situations in everyday life.
Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė The cover and two double-page spreads for the educational picture book Mano dienelė (My Day; Kaunas: Valstybinė pedagoginės literatūros leidykla, 1958; print run 40,000 copies)
A poster encouraging readers to subscribe to magazines and newspapers for children and young people in the 1950s. Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, Art Editions Department
30 31 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Vaclovas Kosciuška The cover, frontispiece and illustrations to the picture book Du gaideliai (Two Little Cocks; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1959; print run 50,000 copies)
Photographic propaganda: Juozas Lingys, a chore-ographer with the Soviet Lithuanian folk group Lietuva, sitting in his cosy but modern appartment with his little sons, and turning over the pages of the picture book based on a popular children’s song Du gaideliai (Two Little Cocks) illustrated by Vaclovas Kosciuška (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1959). Photograph by Eugenijus Šiško. Lithuanian Central State Archives
32 33 In the Framework of Socialist RealismLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Zuikis Puikis was one of the most popular children’s books in Soviet Lithuania. It was reprinted
several times, and translated into Russian, Slovak, and in 1987 even into Arabic. The illustrations
by Vaclovas Kosciuška are linked with the invasion of the style of Walt Disney cartoons into the
consciousness of Soviet Lithuanian children.
Vaclovas Kosciuška The cover and two illustrated double-page spreads for the children’s poem Zuikis Puikis (Puikis the Hare) by Eduardas Mieželaitis (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1955)
A teacher at Vilnius Secondary School No 29 selling new schoolbooks to fourth-form pupils. 1964. Photograph by Antanas Dilys. Lithuanian Central State Archives
34 35 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970s
A reading lesson in the kindergarten of Vairas, the bicycle factory in Šiauliai. 1966. Photograph by Antanas Dilys, Lithuanian Central State Archives
The 1960s brought fresh winds to Lithuania. In the cities, new buildings grew up
in the place of war ruins, more cars trundled down the streets, and jazz rhythms
started to compete with the fl ow of Classical music and patriotic Russian songs ...
At least in the towns, life became lighter, more beautiful and more prosperous; life
in the countryside, however, was still aff ected by the pains of the partisan war and
the collectivisation of agriculture. This seemingly rejuvenated world opened up
more space for children’s culture, in the form of theatre, cinema and books. Artists
creating for children had their confi dence boosted when they won international
36 37 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
acclaim. A film for children by the young film director Arūnas Žebriūnas called
Paskutinė atostogų diena (The Last Vacation Day, or The Girl and the Echo, 1964)
was incredibly successful in Lithuania and across the Soviet Union, culminating
in the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966. Lithuanian illustrators
were recognised for the first time at the Leipzig Book Fair (Algirdas Steponavičius
won the Gold Medal in 1965), and at the newly established Bratislava Illustration
Biennial (in 1967 the BIB Golden Apple went to Steponavičius, and in 1969 to Birutė
Žilytė). Needless to say, the absurd Soviet reality, which stifled and suppressed
individuality, had not disappeared; it had simply assumed new forms. These shifts
were reflected clearly in children’s books and the illustrations to them. The number
of books on Lenin, the Young Pioneers and the Little Octobrists, and on the great
history of the Soviet state and its heroes, did not decrease, they just reflected recent
changes. Whereas in the early 1960s the censors tried to discipline artists who dared
too bravely to go against the canon of Socialist Realism (illustrations by Vincas
Kisarauskas and Arūnas Tarabilda, for instance, received open criticism), in a few
years even books published with an ideological agenda seemed to have contracted
the “virus of Modernism”. The desire for rebirth was universal; but no radical
change occurred, because around the 1970s, all innovation was confined within
clear boundaries and could not be transgressed. Therefore, the 1960s turned out to
be the most interesting period in the history of Soviet Lithuanian children’s book
illustration, as it witnessed the greatest variety of artistic experimentation.
The younger generation and the older artists who recalled the artistic experiments
of the 1930s viewed Socialist Realism unequivocally as a drawback, something
to be opposed, overruled and consigned to oblivion. They embraced as much as
possible generalised forms, simple, mundane emotions, and images of private life,
perceived in contrast with the literal figurativeness of Socialist Realism, its pathos
and its ideologically loaded optimism. The illustrations in children’s books (just
like literature, cinema and the visual arts) started featuring de-idealised characters,
who were vulnerable, ungainly, out of the ordinary and usually marginalised (such
as the marionette-like figures of Lidija Glinskienė, the sad-eyed children of Marija
Ladigaitė, and the strange little people of Algirdas Steponavičius).
Suitable conditions for artistic experimentation depended, to a large extent, on
the work of individuals. It is hard to tell whether the 1960s would have been such
a golden period for children’s book illustration in Lithuania, with so many talents
emerging and expressing themselves, had it not been for Aldona Liobytė, the editor
of the children’s literature section of Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla (the
State Publisher of Fiction, or Vaga since 1965). As a writer, translator and actress,
Liobytė (1915–1985) headed the children’s literature section from 1949, when the
monopolist publisher of fiction moved from Kaunas to Vilnius, until 1961, when
she was sacked for her independent thinking and her activities incompatible with
the Party line. Liobytė grew up in Polish interwar Vilnius (Wilno in Polish), she
was fluent in Polish, and had a wide circle of friends among Polish intellectuals
and artists. In general, she was a very open-minded person, and sought to take
children’s books beyond Soviet propaganda and infantile, happy fairy tales. This
goal was almost unattainable in the 1940s and early 1950s, when even children’s
books were heavily regulated by censorship. However, Liobytė put in a great
personal effort, and managed, from the mid-1950s, to publish international
children’s classics (such as Lewis Carroll, Wilhelm Hauff and E.T.A. Hoffmann),
as well as books illustrated by Vaclovas Kosciuška and Telesforas Kulakauskas,
artists of the older generation who still recalled the colourful and joyful days of Art
Deco. Local cartoon fans were encouraged by „The Adventures of Spiff“. This was a
comic strip, rewritten by Russian writers, based on stories by José Cabrero Arnal for
the French Communist Party newspaper l’Humanité, and published in Lithuana
from 1959, with pictures by the Russian artist Vladimir Suteyev, who later became
a well-known maker of cartoons. Suteyev’s „Spiff“ (or Pif) became very popular
with Lithuanian children, but it was eclipsed by „Little Mouse and the Lion“ (1963),
a picture book by the Hungarian animators György Varnai and Gyula Maskássy
and others. The book charmed the lives of several generations of Lithuanian
children. Liobytė also managed to achieve the first translations of modern Polish
and Czech authors into Lithuanian, with the original illustrations. The wave of
translations of modern literature brought to Lithuania „The Miraculous Chalk“
(1963), a rare example of typographical experimentation, a tale by the Norwegian
writer Zinken Hopp and illustrated by Malvin Neset. Liobytė discovered several
gifted young Lithuanian writers and artists and helped them to begin successful
careers. She persuaded artists such as Rimtautas Gibavičius, Albina Makūnaitė,
Algirdas Steponavičius, Aspazija Surgailienė, Arūnas Tarabilda and Birutė Žilytė
to take up illustrating for children. As an author herself, she collaborated with
most of these artists. In this way, Albina Makūnaitė established her name with her
38 39 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
folk-style illustrations to Saulės vaduotojas (The Liberator of the Sun, 1959) and
Ežerinis (The Lake Child, 1962), folk tales retold by Liobytė. Žilytė won recognition
when she won prizes internationally and locally for her illustrations to Liobytė’s
books Pabėgusi dainelė (The Runaway Song, 1966) and Pasaka apie narsią Vilniaus
mergelę ir galvažudį Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Little Girl from Vilnius
and Greenbeard the Killer, 1970). Not only book illustration, but all new art in
Lithuania received an impulse from the artistic experimentation that flourished
under her (many young people referred to their hospitable and caring guardian as
“aunt Aldona”). These innovations include the illustrations by the painter Vincas
Kisarauskas to Poklius tykoja kas dieną (Poklius Lurks Every Day, 1960, a poem by
Julius Janonis, who died an early death in the first half of the 20th century), which
were publicly criticised for being at odds with the socialist reality. Even work that
did not spark off the ire of the ideological watchdogs was no less important. Some
examples are: Mano žolynėliai (My Little Plants, 1962) a children’s botanical guide
by Ramunėlė Jankevičienė, and the song Virė virė košę (The Porridge is Boiling,
1964), both illustrated in the paper cut technique by Vladas Vildžiūnas; the joyful
and ornate illustrations, like sweetly glazed gingerbread, by Aspazija Surgailienė
to modern tales about Antanas, a small boy who flew to the moon in Kostas
Kubilinskas’ Untulis ir mėnulis (Untulis and the Moon, 1960); and the adventures
of a jester born in a chocolate factory Šokolado juokdarys (The Chocolate Joker,
1962). The only interactive children’s book that was published in Soviet Lithuania,
Ką padarė žirklės (What the Scissors Did, 1961) by Ieva Naginskaitė, was also
published when Liobytė headed the children’s literature section. Even later, when
she was not working for the publisher any more, her successors continued in her
footsteps, making a point of publishing books that had been prepared or had been
commissioned while she was there.
Publishers’ attention to young artists encouraged writers look for artists who were
able to visualise their ideas. In this way, Lidija Glinskienė, a prominent Modernist,
claimed that she had been prompted to start illustrating children’s books by the
writer Mykolas Sluckis (she illustrated several of his tales, which were published
as individual books). The writer Romualdas Lankauskas brought to children’s book
illustration the stylish personality and original artist Teodora Každailienė, whose
illustrations to Lankauskas’ book Kur ūkia laivai (Where Ships Hoot, 1970) are a
brilliant example of Pop Art.
The illustrations by Aloyzas Každailis and Vladislovas Žilius between 1970 and
1973 in a style that is reminiscent of Pop Art, and also work by Bronius Leonavičius
featuring folk with a pinch of Pop Art, and the “Baroque” illustrations by Petras
Repšys, seemed to close the epoch of experimentation. In the 1970s, the optimism
of the 1960s vanished, to be displaced by disillusion and mistrust in the changes in
the Soviet system, prompting people to look for stable values elsewhere. The 1970s
were dominated by a version of Neo-Traditionalism, which manifested itself as a
paraphrase of the heritage of Lithuanian folk art. Its most creative instances were
Steponavičius’ illustrations to Nemuno šalies pasakos (Tales from the Land of the
Nemunas) by Petras Cvirka (it was started in 1978, and only published in 1988), which
provided an initial inspiration to the ingenious work by Stasys Eidrigevičius, and
later Kęstutis Kasparavičius.
40 41 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Algimantas Kunčius (b. 1939) Photographer, one of the founders and a prominent representative of the
“Lithuanian" school of photography, which was well known in the Soviet Union
I especially remember children’s prayer-books and the illustrations for the
magazine Žiburėlis (The Little Light), which we read during the war. Life was
black and white, but children’s books were full of colour. In the postwar years,
the most important book for me was Kastantas muzikantas (Kastantas the Musician),
a children’s poem by Eduardas Mieželaitis. My father wanted me to become
a musician. Maybe that’s the reason ... I was impressed by the self-confidence of the
main character, a small boy.
Rimtas Kalpokas Illustrations to Eduardas Mieželaitis’ poem Kastan-tas muzikantas (Kastantas the Musician; Kaunas: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1948). Images of postwar Vilnius fill double-page spreads: a father takes his son to the music school on Didžioji Street beside St Casimir’s Church. Later, the boy, who has become a musician, conducts a Young Pioneer band marching along the city streets
Several people who grew up in Soviet Lithuania and later embarked on careers
connected with the creation, research or promotion of artistic activity, either art,
literature, theatre, music or architecture, were asked the same question:
Do you remember any illustrated children’s books from your childhood
that made a lasting impression on you? If so, what are those books, and what
do you remember about them?
Several of the respondents could not give an answer, as they had never looked
through or read any illustrated books in their childhood. For many families in
Soviet Lithuania, especially those living in rural areas, life was so hard that parents
could not afford picture books for their children. Their incomes were too low and
children’s books were comparatively expensive; in addition, the books could
usually only be bought in towns. Many curious children from small villages first
saw them only when they started school and discovered the school libraries. In
their case, it was the texts, not the pictures, that helped to create their imaginary
Memories of Books from a Soviet Childhood
42 43 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė The cover of Charles Perrault’s (in Lithuanian
“Šarlis Pero”) Cinderella (Pelenė; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1951). The picture portrays a life which was very different from the Soviet reality, which made it even more remarkable
Mikalojus Povilas Vilutis (b. 1944) Graphic artist, book illustrator, professor at Vilnius Art Academy
Sixty years ago, when I was a boy, life was different. It’s not for me to judge if it
was better or worse, but it was different. I don’t know whether children were happier
then than their counterparts are in the 21st century, but I think children then had
their own lives. There were certain obligatory things, such as breakfast, lunch,
supper and school, but real life went on outside all this. Children lived their lives
the way they wanted to. They made it by themselves, and for themselves. Very few
of us were actively engaged in sport or some extra-curricular activity at school; and
we didn’t have televisions or computers. The only interesting things we had were
books. You used to open a new book or a new issue of the children’s magazine Genys
(The Woodpecker) full of curiosity, not knowing what you would find inside, what
unknown world would open out. I especially liked the illustrations by Konstancija
Petrikaitė-Tulienė to Cinderella. I looked forward to Genys, with its poems by
Kostas Kubilinskas, such as one about a rich man “full of body and red with vodka”,
illustrated by drawings by Telesforas Kulakauskas and Aleksandras Vitulskis.
I still find the illustrations for Cinderella very beautiful, but not the drawings by
Kulakauskas and Vitulskis. Now I think they look affected. The quality of printing
was not too high then, and books did not look very good. Offset lithography didn’t
exist; illustrations were printed by stone lithography. The workers at printing
presses would redraw the illustrations on stones, from which they were then printed.
The printed illustrations had this touch of human hands, this inner beauty and
warmth. Children needed books, and the books were not swamped by cartoons
and computer games. Now I try to show my grandson illustrations by Birutė Žilytė,
Stasys Eidrigevičius and Kęstutis Kasparavičius. But he is not interested. He wants
to see characters from cartoons in books too.
Kęstutis Kasparavičius (b. 1954) Children’s book illustrator and writer
In fact, I can’t remember anything other than Saulutė (The Little Sun, a school
reading book for elementary schools, illustrated by Taida Balčiūnienė). Another
thing I remember was a collection of little books of Lithuanian folk tales in a
souvenir box. I think it was illustrated by Surgailienė. I liked it, as it was small
and pretty. All these small things then looked as if they were from another world.
Aspazija Surgailienė The collection of 12 small-format books Pasakų skrynelė (The Chest of Fairy Tales; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1961)
44 45 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Audrys Karalius (b. 1960) Architect, editor, publisher of the architecture magazine Statybų pilotas
My favourite pre-school book was Pasaka apie vėžliuką Strakaliuką (The Tale
of a Turtle Named Whippersnapper, by the Latvian writer Žanis Griva, translated
into Lithuanian in 1962). The illustrations were great, they were literary, suitable
for the further development of a plotline, the adventures of a little free-thinking
turtle, exactly the thing for an avid book reader striving for independence since
his early childhood. Without the help of grown-ups, I was able to travel around
the world for the 285th time together with the little turtle, as I already knew the
text by heart, and the illustrations helped me not to stray too far from the plot.
Of course, there was Astrid Lindgren’s Rasmus the Wanderer (translated into
Lithuanian in 1965). I used to go to sleep with that book. It taught me humanism,
empathy and a belief in the victory of good.
I should also mention Zuikis Puikis (Zuikis the Hare, by Eduardas Mieželaitis) as
a suggestive and instructive book about the dangers facing the younger generation
everywhere, especially when it tended towards indiscipline. Of course, I remember
the illustrations perfectly (by the artist Vaclovas Kosciuška): the loving and kind-
hearted Mrs Hare, the old-fashioned teacher of the Hare family, as if coming straight
from the times of Lithuanian independence under President Smetona. I later had
a physics teacher who was exactly the same; and the very sexy Ms Fox. You could
say that this book formed the feminine ideal that I nurtured from a very young age:
alluring, frightening, ineffable.
In a word, when I started elementary school, I already had strong views on the
main questions of life, all thanks to the suitably illustrated literature.
Daina Kamarauskienė (b. 1961) Art critic, education specialist, assistant director of the National M.K.
Čiurlionis Art Museum
My favourite books, which I used to look through and examine carefully, were,
alas, not Lithuanian books: Alice in Wonderland, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Winnie-the-
Pooh, and tales by Hauff and Andersen. However, the thin, and, at a first glance,
modest Cinderella, illustrated by Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė, was the epitome
of girls’ dreams and beauty for many years. I did not then know the word “kitsch”,
One of the most popular Lithuanian children’s books from the 1960s: Pasaka apie vėžliuką Strakaliuką (The Tale of a Turtle Named Whippersnapper; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962) by the Latvian writer Žanis Griva. The drawing on the cover is by the Lithuanian artist A. Pilipavičius; the illustrations are by the Latvian children’s book illustrator Margarita Starastė
The first book in Lithu-anian by Astrid Lindgren, Karlsson-on-the-Roof (Mažylis ir Karlsonas, kuris gyvena ant stogo; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1958). This translation was published with the original drawings by Ilon Wikland
46 47 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
and so I admired it with all my heart, without any pangs of conscience. Pelėdžiuko
sapnas (The Little Owl’s Dream) by Janina Degutytė (illustrated by Marija Ladigaitė)
attracted me with its mystery and sadness, expressed in the very big eyes of all the
characters. The fragile butterfly and the red poppies appeared in my dreams more
than once, and later tried to move into my childhood drawings. It felt good to read
the book and turn its lovely pages.
Ernestas Parulskis (b. 1963) Journalist, essayist, publisher
In my childhood and early teens, two groups of children’s book illustrations
impressed me most; at least this is how I see it now. The first group was horribly
frightening, and contains only one drawing.
I read Hauff’s Fairy Tales that were published in Soviet times (1962), with 19th-
century zincograph illustrations, when I was seven or eight years old. It was summer.
I was in the country, there was a lot of fun to be had there during the day, so I read
the books in the evening in bed. Most of them did not shock me, not even The Tale
of the Ghost Ship, with a drawing of a dead sailor with a nail sticking out of his
forehead. One evening, I started to read the story about a dead girl. Then several
things happened at once: the electric bulb went, the trees outside the window
started swaying, something clattered against the windowpane, I turned the page,
and saw an illustration of the girl already risen from the grave and standing by the
tombstone. I hurriedly closed the book, slept very little that night, and did not open
Hauff’s tales again for a long time.
The second group includes several books with carefully drawn and very detailed
pictures. Which one did I study for longest? Probably it was the illustrations for
Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island (1959) where Captain Nemo, who is already old,
is sitting in a submarine.
I did not like the Lithuanian school of illustration: it was neither funny, nor frightening,
nor realistic. Even Žydrieji jungos (Boys in Blue, 1972), one of the best books for teenagers,
by Vladas Dautartas, was badly illustrated (by Kastytis Skromanas). It’s full of exciting
things: diving, hidden treasure, villains, rafts, girls, jeans. But everything is drawn as if
it was not meant for an adventure book, but for a mediocre graphic art graduation work,
so that Professor Lagauskas would be satisfied, and Professor Gibavičius would approve,
or whatever else professors were called then.
Marija Ladigaitė Illustration for the selec-tion of poetry Pelėdžiuko sapnas (The Little Owl’s Dream, Vilnius, 1969) by Janina Degutytė
48 49 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Erika Grigoravičienė (b. 1965) Art historian and critic, specialising in Soviet art
Cinderella (1973), illustrated by Ada Skliutauskaitė, was to me, then a small girl,
something very attractively “Western”. If you had asked me then, I would have
said that it was simply beautiful; but there was also something fascinating about
it, some promise of a better world, and it was not too difficult to guess where that
better world could be found. This book was completely different from the provincial-
style illustrations in Lithuanian books. They are supposed to be called the “national
school of graphic art”, but I disliked them when I was a child. No wonder this book was
different: Ada is Jewish. So, I have answered you very honestly.
Paulina Eglė Pukytė (b. 1966) Artist, writer, journalist
This is what I remember very clearly: in my childhood, I was given Polish and
East German books, because of their illustrations. Especially Polish. They were really
beautifully illustrated, while the Lithuanian illustrations were grim and static, very
“folksy”, or rather, mock folksy, and city children did not find them either exciting or
interesting. Perhaps the only one was Varlė karalienė (The Frog Queen, first edition
1962, illustrated by Algirdas Steponavičius) by Kostas Kubilinskas. So we used to read
Lithuanian books, but we looked at Polish pictures. The only interesting Lithuanian
illustrations which I remember very clearly from my childhood were by Stasys
Eidrigevičius, who, ironically, has been living in Poland for a long time now.
Daiva Parulskienė (b. 1968) Musicologist, Lithuanian cultural attaché to the United Kingdom
Astrid Lindgren’s The Brothers Lionheart (Broliai liūtaširdžiai, 1979) comes to
mind. I remember this was an edition with fine graphic drawings. I used to sob a
lot when reading the story. That’s all I can remember. I never even tried to find out
whose drawings they were, or which edition it was ...
Arūnas Gelūnas (b. 1968) Graphic artist, associate professor at Vilnius Academy of Art,
since 2010 Lithuanian minister of culture
When I agreed to explore in public my experiences with the illustrated books
of my childhood, I had no idea about the feelings and emotions that this rather
One of the first Polish books published in Soviet Lithuania was the humorous story Berniukas atžagariukas (A Naughty Boy; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962) by Hanna Ożogowska, with a cover by the Lithuanian artist Rimtautas Gibavičius, and the original caricature-like illustrations by the Polish artist Bohdan Butenko
Adasa Skliutauskaitė Cover for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella (Pelenė; Vilnius: Vaga, 1973), the girls’ favourite all over the world, which was published in Lithuania in a huge edition of 50,000
50 51 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
“scientific” act could revive. The most important books to me seem to be the
following four, which can still be found somewhere among my parents’ furniture,
and which have accompanied me from my earliest, faintly remembered moments:
the collection of poems Genių kalvė (The Woodpeckers’ Smithy, 1970, illustrated
by Laima Barisaitė) by Anzelmas Matutis, Pasakėlės (Little Tales, 1971, from the
series “Prano Mašioto knygynėlis”, by Pranas Mašiotas, a classic of Lithuanian
children’s literature, illustrated by Taida Balčiūnienė), Kiškių sukilimas (The Revolt
of Hares, 1971, by Kazys Binkis, illustrated by Albina Makūnaitė), and Senelių pasakos
(Grandparents’ Tales, 1972, edited by Jurgis Dovydaitis and Norbertas Vėlius, with
drawings by Aspazija Surgailienė).
All of them were simply a part of me from the age of three to five; all of them, to
judge by the condition they are in now, were often read; and all of them, in spite
of coming from the same publisher, the one and only Vaga that existed then, were
very different. My grandmother and parents were clearly in favour of Balčiūnienė’s
Pasakėlės, because the illustrations were so simple and suitable for a child. My
mother liked to express publicly her aesthetic views, and so she used to condemn
Surgailienė’s folk-style illustrations for Senelių pasakos: “Are these ‘doodles’ really
suitable for children?!” However, I remember quite clearly that I liked both books
very much! Children, it seems, are like “savages” in the jungle, who see the world
as an indivisible whole. I cannot recall ever having tried to separate the text from
the illustrations. For me, they were simply my books, where precisely this poem sits
next to this drawing and not another. Matutis’ “Little Forget-me-not, tiny blue flower,
what does your blossom remind me of?” was inseparable from a terribly mysterious
bush by Barysaitė on a background of black-grey stripes. Balčiūnienė’s Lapkritys
Purkštutis (Rainy November), strangely enough, reminded me of my father. The bright
and contrasting graphic pictures by Surgailienė suit the grim story of the motherless
Sigutė. So what, if a tree did not look like a tree? Makūnaitė’s experiments, really
modernist and daring, seemed to be the most natural thing in the world, where Jonas
pas Čigonus (John at the Gypsies) was concerned. The books I did not like, there were
some, would be relegated immediately to a corner.
There was one more book, a very unusual one, very different from the others:
Kazys Binkis’ Keistutis pas Gediminą (Keistutis at the Court of Gediminas), illustrated
by a young artist called Liudas Vilimas, who is hardly known in Lithuania today. It
was published in Kaunas on 16 February 1940, when the independent Lithuanian
Aspazija Surgailienė The cover for the collection of Lithuanian folk tales Senelių pasakos (Grandpar-ents’ Tales; Vilnius: Vaga, 1972)
Taida Balčiūnienė The cover for the book Pasakėlės (Little Tales; Vilnius: Vaga, 1971) by the 20th-century classic Lithuanian writer Pranas Mašiotas, from the popular series Prano Mašioto knygynėlis (Pranas Mašiotas’ Little Bookshop)
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state had only four months left to live. I cannot find the right words to describe the
strange aloofness and mystery that it radiated: Gediminas Hill in Vilnius, with the
howling Iron Wolf on top, seemed to be the epitome of greatness ... Grandmother’s
request not to tell other children about this book was completely impossible for me
to understand at the time [Soviet censors prohibited the public distribution and
publicisation of books published in independent Lithuania, especially historic and
patriotic books, including children’s books].
Giedrė Mickūnaitė (b. 1971) Art historian, medievalist, associate professor at Vilnius Academy of Art
I remember best Kubilinskas’ fairy tales in verse Stovi pasakų namelis (A Little
Fairy-Tale House), illustrated by Birutė Žilytė, as a huge book with shiny cellophane-
covered covers the colour of cold beetroot soup [a traditional Lithuanian dish]. The
drawings in brightly coloured frames gave an impression of depth, and invited the
reader to examine them closely. An examination revealed the funny toes and the
soles of the feet of a flying witch; I used to tickle them; also the witch’s hair being
brushed by Elenytė. My sister and I nicknamed them “the river of sausages”.
Rimvydas Petrauskas (b. 1972) Historian, Vilnius University professor, head of the Department
of Medieval History
It must have been Aldona Liobytė’s Pasaka apie narsią Vilniaus mergelę ir galvažudį
Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Little Girl frwom Vilnius and Greenbeard the Killer),
illustrated by Birutė Žilytė. I remember it for its illustrations. They provoked very
strong feelings, something between curiosity and horror.
Tomas S. Butkus (b. 1975) Architect, publisher, book designer, poet, essayist
Yes, I remember how many Soviet Lithuanian children’s books made a deep
impression on me. In addition to Soviet cartoons, I remember very well Leonardas
Gutauskas’ little book Dangaus kalvis Perkūnas (Perkūnas, the Blacksmith in the Sky,
1980) with its red cover. There was an old man scratching the moon with a scythe,
or something like that. One more book I remember is Mieželaitis’ Kirvirvyrai (1978,
illustrated by Kastytis Juodikaitis), and something by Eidrigevičius. I would have to
think very hard to recall them.
Ingrida Korsakaitė (b. 1938) An art historian, critic and famous researcher of Lithuanian children’s books
Ingrida Korsakaitė has been observing, commenting and interpreting developments
in the field of children’s book illustration since the 1960s
I was brought up in a literary family, and since my childhood I have been used to
leafing through the pages of illustrated books. Ever since those times and from
my early teenage years, I remember the realistic drawings by Adolfas Vaičaitis for
Lithuanian Fairy Tales (1944), edited by Jonas Balys. I also liked Tales from the Land of
the Nemunas by Petras Cvirka, illustrated by Domicelė Tarabildienė in the grattage
technique. I still keep a 1920s Lithuanian edition of the fairy tales by Wilhelm Hauff,
with black-and-white, yet uniquely compelling nineteenth-century illustrations.
This ancient book, which has been handed down several generations of my family,
came to be treasured by my daughter Jurga [Jurga Ivanauskaitė (1961-2007) was a
famous Lithuanian writer] many years later.
Much later, in my father’s library [Kostas Korsakas (1909-1986) was a writer, an
influential literary critic, and a longstanding director of the Lithuanian Language
and Literature Institute], I discovered the folk fairy tale The Swan Queen with linocut
illustrations by Viktoras Petravičius, which was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1937
Paris World Fair. The images in the book, which were made in such an expressive
manner, opened up a new world to me. It was for good reason that in the 1960s,
Petravičius’ art became a major influence in the formation of the folk style in the
graphic arts in Lithuania.
Until the end of the late 1950s, all art in Lithuania, including illustrations to
children’s books, had to be in the style of Socialist Realism, which crippled the
individuality of artists and hampered their imagination and artistic experimentation.
The beginning of my professional career coincided with the first changes that took
place in the early 1960s.
I studied art history and theory in St Petersburg, it was called Leningrad at the
time, during the “thaw”, when we were allowed to catch a glimpse of vast areas of
contemporary art. More exhibitions of foreign art could be seen. It was possible to
buy books on art from elsewhere in the Socialist bloc, including children’s books
published in Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Some space was given to
Lithuanian artists too. Because of the nature of the genre, illustrations to children’s
54 55 Children’s Book Illustration During the 1960s and 1970sLithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
books turned out to be a breeding ground for new discoveries. At the time, many
graphic artists rediscovered Lithuanian folk art. Besides being a reaction against
the forced copying of ideologised “reality”, this trend was also an expression
of the artists’ determination to encourage the national culture and resist the
denationalisation policies of the regime.
It was then that I developed a professional interest in children’s book illustration,
and saw Lithuanian graphic art being reinvented in the pages of children’s books.
That was where individual artists’ creativity found a way to reveal itself. Many
graphic artists dedicated their best books to children, entrusting the little readers
with their attempts at innovation. I have had the chance to write about illustrations
by Rimtautas Gibavičius, Bronius Leonavičius, Albina Makūnaitė, Algirdas Stepona-
vičius, Aspazija Surgailienė, Sigutė Valiuvienė, Birutė Žilytė and other artists. These
artists are my near-contemporaries, or slightly older, so it is possible to say that
I have watched the development of their work from the very beginning. I saw
how Lithuanian children’s books went international, winning awards in Leipzig
and Bratislava. I was blessed with a specially close relationship with Žilytė and
Steponavičius. In their home in a quiet suburb of Vilnius, I experienced memorable
moments communicating with these eminent artists. They both looked at the world
and human existence philosophically, providing children with really great art, in
which they combined the deepest impulses of the folk tradition with modern forms.
Even in the time of the “thaw”, the lives of children’s book illustrators were far
from being a bed of roses. The young and talented Vincas Kisarauskas made colour
woodcuts to illustrate a picture book based on a rhyming tale by Julius Janonis. It
was printed in 1960, and provoked a great outrage. His archaic-looking illustrations,
reflecting the intense battle between good and evil, came across as something
unthinkable in a picture book. The brutal criticism of the work by the official press
was followed by repressions. Aldona Liobytė, who was the head of the children’s and
young adults’ section of the state running publishing house which published the
book, a person who offered all kinds of support to young and talented illustrators,
was fired from her job.
Sigutė Valiuvienė’s original illustrations for the books of dramatic content The
Cursed Monks (1964) by Antanas Vienuolis and Danko (1968) by Maxim Gorky also
had dire consequences. The artist’s painting-like illustrations, with colour employed
in an almost abstract manner, caused her to fall out with the bureaucrats and the
Sigutė Valiuvienė Painting-like illustration for Užkeiktieji vienuoliai (The Cursed Monks, Vilnius, 1964) by Antanas Vienuolis
Stasys Eidrigevičius The cover and an illus-trated double-page spread for Lithuanian folk-tale Devyni broliai ir jų sesuo Elenytė (Nine Brothers and Their Sister Elenyte, Vilnius, 1985)
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in drawing details, in creating a setting for every episode, and evokes vividly the
atmosphere of a particular epoch and a particular country.
The illustrations in Kepežinskas’ free and expressive style are also very witty too,
and this appeals so much to children. In contrast with Kasparavičius, who works
exclusively on children’s books, Kepežinskas is an artist with a rather wide range,
and has produced fine art prints, graceful applied graphic and calligraphy work.
This experienced graphic artist always creates a holistic book, paying attention to
its internal structure, the arrangement of the text and the illustrations on the page,
and the calligraphy of the titles. His characters are sweet and grotesque, especially
his personified animals. He creates a world of animals of his own, resisting the
influence of popular clichés.
The world is wide open to the contemporary artist. A new generation of talented
illustrators is emerging alongside the older ones. I am very interested in work by
young illustrators, but here I was asked to share my impressions of illustrators from
the Soviet period.
Party, which had everything under their control. The style of illustration led again
to changes of management in the publishing sector and the installing of more
loyal people who were prepared to toe the Party line (see Sniečkaus fenomenas:
prisiminimai ir pamąstymai (The Phenomenon of Sniečkus: Reflections and
Recollections), Vilnius: Gairės, 2003, pp. 319–320). In her other illustrations, the
artist created a lyrical image of a pensive child. The image of the child which did
not look at all like all those smiling and chirpy Young Pioneers, but the authorities
found no faults with these illustrations.
The last decades of the twentieth century saw new names join the ranks of
children’s book illustrators. Some of the most prominent of them from my point
of view are Irena Daukšaitė-Guobienė, Stasys Eidrigevičius, Leonardas Gutauskas,
Kęstutis Kasparavičius, Rimvydas Kepežinskas and Irena Žviliuvienė. I noticed the
intriguing work of Eidrigevičius with his first pieces. Besides his illustrations of
children’s books, I also noticed his bookplates and miniature paintings. Shortly
afterwards, I wrote about his work. After he emigrated to Poland, I tried to keep up
with him when he rocketed to international fame. We became good friends. In many
of my articles, I have tried to solve the riddles of his talent. The different stages in his
career are dominated by different media and genres: illustrations and bookplates,
posters and paintings, sculptures and masks, installations and actions, drawings
and photographs. Yet they are strung together by his unique vision of the world.
His paradoxical thinking combines melancholy with the grotesque, his boundless
imagination makes incredible associations, uniting into a whole disparate articles
and conjuring up absurd situations similar to dream imagery, and reminiscent of
the irrational art of different epochs. Besides his surrealist imagery, he introduced
the aesthetics of nonsense into children’s books in Lithuania, which has spread into
the work of other artists, especially that of Kasparavičius.
Kasparavičius, with his clear drawings in bright colours, full of joy, wit and
inventiveness, caught my eye with his very first illustrated books. After Lithuania
regained its independence, he worked for foreign publishers around the world, and
it was only in the last decade, when editorial house Nieko rimto published quite a
few of his illustrated books. Now, in addition to drawing illustrations, he also writes
stories. The characters in classic fairy tales take on a new appearance when they are
drawn by Kasparavičius; in his own stories, he creates equally lively characters. He is
unrivalled in personifying animals and animating objects. He takes a great pleasure
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Taida Balčiūnienė The cover and an illus-trated double-page spread for the elementary school reading book ABC (Vilnius: Vaga, 1973; print run 50,000 copies)
In ABC, the letter G is illustrated with ideologically neutral pictures of a doctor (gydytojas
in Lithuanian) and a fire engine (gaisrinė), but the letter H is doubly ideologically charged: the state
emblem of Soviet Lithuania (herbas) introduces the symbol of the Soviet republic, and a picture
of the Kaunas hydro-electric power station (hidroelektrinė) symbolises the modernisation
of Lithuania and the growth of its industry in the Soviet era.
Children’s book illustrators of the 1960s took worn-out clichés of Soviet ideology
(Communism as the future of humanity, the Soviet Union as the fatherland of all
Soviet citizens, the Soviet Union as the world leader in technological progress and
military power, etc) and their symbols (Lenin, the cruiser Aurora, happy Octobrists
and Pioneers, brave Soviet soldiers, tanks, rockets, and so on) and clad them in new,
and, it must be said, attractive attire. Many children happily leafed through books
illustrated by Taida Balčiūnienė, Rimtautas Gibavičius, Adasa Skliutauskaitė and
Domicelė Tarabildienė, without being bothered too much by their content. The
images were dynamic, clever, intriguing and lively, and that was enough. The pictures
appealed to children and broadened their horizons, captured their imaginations,
and, naturally, injected some ideological poison. How could anybody resist the
dream of a holiday at the Artek Young Pioneers’ camp, on seeing the sweet, happy,
energetic and healthy campers drawn by Skliutauskaitė (Anzelmas Matutis, Horns
of Artek, 1963)? With premonitions of the danger of ideology seemingly dispersed,
overshadowed by real links with the actual reality, the promise of happy holidays
and entertainment were an important part of illustration for children. Some
art critics, guided by criteria similar to those of the young readers, even tried to
associate the illustrations by Gibavičius and Tarabildienė with what has been called
Quiet Modernism, totally oblivious to the fact that the term implies an opposition
to official ideology, both in terms of form and content.
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Rimtautas Gibavičius The cover and illustrated duoble- page pread to Kostas Kubilinskas’ book of poetry Gintarėliai (Little Pieces of Amber; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1961)
This collection of poems, some of them ideologically charged, some completely innocent,
is so artistically designed that at first sight political ideas are almost lost in the happy childhood
scenes. Hopefully, the children reading this book were impressed by its modern layout, upbeat
illustrations and fluent rhymes, without paying too much attention to the ideology expressed
in the pictures and poems: Aš noriu atverti / Mažytę širdelę / Lenino partijai / Lenino šaliai //
Te Partijai plaka / Mažytė širdelė / Ir žėri, ir dega / Karšta kaip liepsnelė (I want to open up / My little
heart / To the Party of Lenin / To the country of Lenin // Let my little heart / Beat for the Party /
Let it burn and tinkle / Hot like a little flame).
A new Little Octobrist (a member of the Soviet youth organisation for children between seven and nine years of age). Photograph from the collection of the well-known Lithuanian artist Nomeda Urbonienė (b. 1968). This photograph reminds the artist of one childhood episode that shows the strength of the ideological indoctrination of children. After becoming an Octobrist, Urbonienė came back home and declared to her grand- father: “I am not your granddaughter any more; now I’m Lenin’s granddaughter!”
The myth of Lenin as the grandfather of all children, and of the Party as a mother, was
created by words and pictures. It is especially clear in the poem Mylėki partiją, vaikuti
(Love the Party, Little Child) by the children’s poet Kostas Kubilinskas. This poem was
recited by all Octobrists in Soviet times: Mylėki Partiją, vaikuti, / Kaip savo motiną myli;
/ Tave lyg pumpurą gležnutį / Ji saugo Lenino šaly. // Tave nuo priešų ji apgynė / Ranka
galinga ir tvirta: // Visa Tėvynė Lenininė / Tvirtų jos rankų sukurta. // Ir po baltų beržų
šešėliais / Balta kaip gulbė mokykla, / Ir Kauno jūros žiburėliais / Pražydus tėviškė miela... /
Ir tu gali kuo nori būti / Tik didžio Lenino šaly. / Mylėki Partiją, vaikuti, /Kaip savo motiną
myli (Love the Party, little child, / Like you love your own mother: / In Lenin’s country she
protects you / Like a fragile little blossom. // She has defended you from enemies / With
her mighty and strong hand: / All our Lenin’s homeland / Is created by her strong hands.
// Your school, white as a swan, / Under the shadows of white birches, / And your lovely
homeland, blossoming / With electric lights from the Kaunas Sea ... // You can become
what you want to be / Only in the country of the great Lenin. / Love the Party, little child,
/ Like you love your own mother). (Kostas Kubilinskas, Trys liepsnelės (Three Little Flames),
Vilnius: Vaga, 1964).
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Taida Balčiūnienė The cover and a double-page spread for the book Pirmasis dantukas (My First Tooth) by Kostas Kubilinskas (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962; print run 30,000 copies)
Domicelė Tarabildienė, Arūnas Tarabilda The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for the poem Spaliukų dainelė (The Song of the Octobrists) in the collection of poems Vaikučiai pabiručiai (Tiny Tots) by Kostas Kubilinskas (Vilnius: Vaga, 1966; print run 30,000 copies)
Participants in the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Lenin All-Union Young Pioneer Organisation (the youth organisation for children between ten and 14 years old) laying flowers at the Lenin Memorial in Vilnius. 1972. Photograph by K. Liubšys. Lithuanian Central State Archives
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Galina Rozinienė An illustrated double-page spread Vaikai ir kreiseris (Children and the Cruiser) for the magazine Genys (1964, No 11). Paper, ink, watercolour, 32×45.5. Lithuanian Literature and Art Archive
Three elementary school pupils look at the wall of a building decorated with posters depicting Lenin. Vilnius, 1968. Photograph by Marius Baranauskas, Lithuanian Central State Archives
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Nijolė Klišiūtė Illustrations to the collection of poems Nupiešiu Tėvynę (I Will Draw my Homeland) by Martynas Vainilaitis (Vilnius; Vaga, 1975)
This book, resembling a typical colouring book, had to educate children about the idea of the great
Soviet homeland, with its capital in Moscow – O mano Tėvynė graži ir laisva, / Štai dunkso iš tolo
didžioji Maskva (O, my homeland is beautiful and free / Here I see in the distance the great Moscow) –
by introducing well-known sites in Moscow, starting with the Kremlin and Lenin’s mausoleum.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is seen as only one of several important cities in the Soviet Union:
it is compared to another city, Brest, in Byelorussia, which is represented by the memorial to Soviet
soldiers killed in the Second World War.
Adasa Skliutauskaitė Illustrations for Anzelmas Matutis’ poems Arteko trimitai (Horns of Artek; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1963)
Artek was a summer camp for children, which opened in 1925 near the resort of Gurzuf in Krym, now
Ukraine; it was modernised and extended in the 1960s. A ticket to Artek was considered in the Soviet
Union and other countries of the communist bloc an especially high award for extraordinary academic
achievements and active participation in the activities of the Young Pioneer organisation. In 1969,
Artek consisted of 150 buildings: it had a school, a stadium, three swimming pools, and even its own
film studio, Artekfilm. The camp was open all year round; at the peak of its popularity, it received about
27,000 children a year. Communist leaders and foreign politicians with Soviet sympathies used to come
to Artek to meet the Pioneers. Among them were Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, Indira Gandhi,
Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, Ho Chi Minh and Palmiro Togliatti.
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Domicelė Tarabildienė Illustrations to the collec-tion of poems Draugystės eglutė (The New Year Tree of Friendship) by Kostas Kubilinskas (Vilnius: Vaga, 1965; print run 30,000 copies)
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Rimtautas Gibavičius The cover and illustrations to Eduardas Mieželaitis’ poems Ką sakė obelėlė (What the Apple Tree Said; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962)
In the poems and pictures in this attractively designed book, a happy childhood in Soviet Lithuania
is compared to the hardships of children in capitalist countries. The illustrations to the poem
Tavo bičiulis (Your Pal), published in 1951 as a separate book, follow the theme of a little bootblack
boy (pp. 72–73). This was a favourite theme with Soviet writers and artists, who wanted to depict
the exploitation of children in the capitalist world (p. 74).
Children standing as guards of honour in the military cemetery in Vilnius, by the graves of Soviet soldiers who were killed in the Second World War. 1964. Photograph by Judelis Kacenbergas. Lithuanian Central State Archives
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The cover of the book Nepamirštami susitikimai. Apsakymai, atsiminimai, eilėraščiai apie V. Leniną (Unforgettable Meetings. Tales, Memories, Poems about Lenin), edited by Jonas Linkevičius (Kaunas: Šviesa, 1977). On the cover is a portrait of Lenin by the Russian artist Nikolai Zhukov; on the frontis-piece, a woodcut portrait of Lenin by the Lithuanian artist Jonas Kuzminskis
The dust-jacket of the book Visada su mumis. Apsakymai ir eilėraščiai apie V. Leniną (With us Forever. Tales and Poems about Lenin) edited by Jonas Linkevičius (Kaunas: Šviesa, 1975). On the dust-jacket is a portrait of Lenin by the Russian artist Nikolai Zhukov; the rest of the book is designed by the Lithuanian artist Gediminas Pempė
Books intended for Lenin’s hagiography were extravagantly produced: hardcovers, dust-jackets,
and good paper. On the covers, there were usually drawings of Lenin by Russian artists who were
well known for their portraits of Lenin. Despite all this extravagance, parents were reluctant
to buy these books for their children, so the print runs were seldom over 8,000 copies, which was
considered small in Soviet Lithuania (compared to the print runs of fairy-tale books, which
sometimes reached 50,000 copies). The rest of the print run, left over after distribution to the libraries,
was simply taken away for recycling.Adasa Skliutauskaitė The illustration Mažasis batų valytojas (The Little Bootblack Boy) to Albertas Laurinčiukas’ book Matadoras (The Matador; Vilnius: Vaga, 1971; print run 40,000 copies)
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Kastytis Skromanas An example of Soviet military propaganda: cover and illustrations to Bronius Mackevičius’ book Mūsų kariai (Our Soldiers; Vilnius: Vaga, 1971; print run 50,000 copies)
Children at a Vilnius kindergarten meet soldiers of the Soviet army. 1964. A photograph from the personal collection of the book designer Jokūbas Jacovskis
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A virtual meeting of two famous avant-garde artists. The illustrations to the book Didysis mūšis prie mažojo tvenkinio (The Big Battle by the Small Pond) by the Molda-vian writer Oktav Panku-Yasz (in a translation from Russian; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962) were drawn by the future star of the Russian underground Ilya Kabakov. The cover is by the then young Lithu-anian modernist Vincas Kisarauskas
Despite the appearance of the Berlin Wall in 1961, after the International Moscow
Youth Festival, Khrushchev’s visit to the USA, and modern art and lifestyle
exhibitions in Moscow and Leningrad, the 1960s began with the hope that a small
gap had opened in the Iron Curtain, and it was possible to see through it and
observe what was going on in the outside world without leaving the Soviet Union.
The illusion of life taking a normal and more prosperous turn was strengthened
by the modernisation of the built environment. Architects and designers were
transforming it into a new style. New housing developments were being built in
place of war ruins. Impressive modern structures were springing up in the large
towns. For book lovers, the most important of these was the National (then Republic)
Library, with its cool tables made of white wood, low benches to put your books
on, and armchairs of a matching height. Intellectuals and artists admired the new
Neringa Café, which seemed to look exactly like the pictures of 1950s Paris cafés that
could be seen in architectural magazines. The opening of the Nykštukas (Elf) Café in
Vilnius was a great event for children, as it featured tables adapted for their height,
and modern-looking seating made of wood and ropes, while on the walls children
could see familiar characters from folk tales painted in vibrant colours. Against
the background of the growing collective prosperity, writers, artists, children and
their parents took an interest in the changes promised by new technology. Children
read about the application of products of the chemical industry in everyday life,
about conquering space, cars and their make-up; even the vacuum cleaner became
a character in children’s literature and illustration. The new subject matter offered
artists new means of expression. Illustration started making use of photomontage,
typographical design, and primitive drawings, similar to children’s art. Artists
recalled how they used to be children and played with colour paper cuts. The
example of Polish and Czech artists encouraged Lithuanians to trust the child’s
imagination and to adapt, in pictures for children, the abstract style used by classics
of Modernism (Joan Miró, Paul Klee). Revisiting the Classical tradition, for example,
Baroque, which was once very strong in Lithuania, looked new in the context of post-
Socialist Realism, and was therefore perceived as modern. Folk art, which since the
early 20th century had been recognised as a key element of the national identity,
became an important source of inspiration for artists.
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Arūnas Tarabilda The cover and illustra- tions to the educational book on household products of the chemical industry Stiklinis laivas (The Glass Boat) by Vytautas Greblikas (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1960)
Vincas Kisarauskas The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for Julius Janonis’ poem Poklius tykoja kas dieną (Poklius Lurks Every Day; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1960, print run 15,000 copies)
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Arūnas Tarabilda The cover and illustrations to the book Žvaigždžių sąmyšis (Confusion of the Stars) by Petras Keidošius (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1963; print run 15,000 copies)
Arūnas Tarabilda Illustrations to V. Mikuličius’ book about natural gas, its extraction and uses Kas gyvena po žeme (What Lies Under-ground; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1960)
These three boooks (pp. 80–82) attracted the attention of the censors, and thereby became
landmarks in the history of Lithuanian Modernism. A columnist writing under the pen name
Akstinas (“thorn” in English) on 2 March 1961 published a satirical essay Tėvelis ir mamytė susibarė
(Daddy and Mummy Quarrelled) in Tiesa, the main Lithuanian daily paper. In the words of a little girl
who has overheard her parents quarrelling over some new books that were bought for her,
he mocked the illustrations by Kisarauskas and Tarabilda. His main target was Kisarauskas: “Daddy
said that this book was simply splashed with dirt, and Mummy said that this was the way these
books should look, because the artist was depicting his feeling for an open space; the drawings
of the sun don’t look like the sun, the clouds don’t look like clouds, the lightning doesn’t look
like lightning, and the people don’t look like people; daddy said that these pictures were shapeless
formalistic wanderings” and “he said he didn’t understand how a publisher could provide children
with pictures in such bad taste.” At the end of the article, the girl added that her daddy, worrying
about other books which were equally badly illustrated, mentioned another two, Stiklinis laivas and
Kas gyvena po žeme, though without mentioning the names of the artists who illustrated them.
It was a clear sign to the publishers: Kisarauskas was crossed off the list of available book illustrators;
Tarabilda managed to stay in favour, but was watched closely.
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Arūnas Tarabilda Double-page spreads from the book about conquests of outer space Raketos, planetos ir mes (Rockets, Planets and Us) by Tomas Venclova (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962)
In the Centre of Young Technicians. 1978. Photo-graph by Eugenijus Šiško. Lithuanian Central State Archives
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Aspazija Surgailienė The cover and illustrations to Kostas Kubilinskas’ poem Untulis ir Mėnulis (Little Anthony and the Moon; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1960; print run 30,000 copies)
The subjects of space travel and space rockets were prominent in the Cold War period both
in the East and the West. Grown-ups competed in the realms of science and technology, children
dreamt about journeys to faraway planets, and strange aliens that might be living on them. Interest
in the subject of rockets and space travel was not only something obligatory, encouraged by the
state: both grown-ups and children were sincerely fascinated by them. For this reason, in Lithuania
and other Baltic countries, it not only depicts Soviet triumphs in conquering space, but also shows
the marvels of contact with unknown worlds. Since the subject itself was closely related to new
technology and progress, some modernistic “wanderings” by the artists illustrating children’s books
on space travel were tolerated.
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Marija Ladigaitė The cover, frontispiece and an illustrated double-page spread for Algimantas Čekuolis’ book Keturi žiemos vėjai (The Four Winds of Winter; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1963)
These illustrations are remarkable, not only for their modern form, but also for the intense
mood of overwhelming sadness. In her illustrations, Ladigaitė uses views of city, quite unusual
in children’s literature before the mid-1960s.
Aspazija Surgailienė The cover and an illus-trated double-page spread for Vytautas Rudokas’ book Šokolado juokdarys (The Chocolate Joker; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962)
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Vladas Vildžiūnas The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for the educational children’s book on plants Mano žolynėliai (My Little Plants) by Ramunėlė Jankevičienė (Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962)
Paper cuts and illustrations imitating their style in the artistic context of 1960s Lithuania were
considered innovatory, and an introduction to Modernism. Pictures for the book Mano žolynėliai
were extremely carefully cut out by Vildžiūnas, so that they resembled as much as possible the real
plants described in the book. All the illustrations were glued up together; the artist never used paint.
“The idea of this book was to make children discern different plants and remember their names,”
the artist later explained.
Vladas Vildžiūnas The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for the Lithuanian children’s folk song Virė virė košę (The Porridge is Boiling; Vilnius: Vaga, 1964)
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Ieva Naginskaitė The only interactive Lithuanian children’s book of the 1960s Ką padarė žirklės (What the Scissors Did; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros lei-dykla, 1961)
Vytautas Valius Illustration Nykštukai ir muzika (The Gnomes and the Music; 1967, cardboard, paper cut, ink, 29.5×23.3, Lithuanian Literature and Art Archive) for the children’s magazine Genys (1967, No 10, p.2)
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A collage for the double-page spread for the children’s magazine Genys (1971, No 11; pp. 4-5, 29.5×23) by an unknown artist. Lithuanian Litera-ture and Art Archive
The interior of the Draugystė (Friendship) bookshop in Vilnius. Until the 1990s, it was the only bookshop that sold books from other Eastern bloc countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. 1967. Photograph by Algimantas Brazaitis. Lithuanian Central State Archives
The modernisation of life: the rise of the new uniform residential districts in towns built
according to the same designs, the spread of chemical products designed for household
use, the growth of local industries, and echoes of Western fashions in interior design and
clothes, all introduced new subjects into children’s literature, and changed the motifs in
children’s pictures and the appearance of the characters drawn in the books. New means
of expression appeared, based on paper cutting techniques and the use of bright colours.
Some new characters in fiction started to resemble those in children’s cartoons; it proved
the influence of animation over book illustration. Lidija Glinskienė, one of the modernists
of the Sixties, admitted to collecting Polish and Czech illustrated children’s books. She used
to buy them at the Draugystė bookshop, which sold literature from socialist countries and
was based on Gediminas (then Lenin) Avenue in the centre of Vilnius.
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Adasa Skliutauskaitė The frontispiece and double-page spread for Kazys Marukas’ book Mama ir vairuotojas (Mummy and the Driver; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962)
Kastytis Juodikaitis The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for Martynas Vainilaitis’ book Pramušt-galvis beždžioniukas (The Mischievous Little Monkey; Vilnius: Vaga, 1964)
Kastytis Juodikaitis The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for Vincas Giedra’s book Dėdė Matas išvažiuoja (Uncle Matas is Leaving; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1961)
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Emanuelis Katilius The cover and illustra- tions to Vytautas Misevičius’ book Danukas Dunduliukas (Vilnius: Vaga, 1972), more proof of the Polish and Czech influence on Lithuanian children’s book illustration
Arvydas Každailis The cover and an illustration to Mykolas Sluckis’ book Ačiū šelmiui akmenėliui (Thank you Rogue Stone; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1963)
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Algirdas Steponavičius An illustration to the story Baisusis dulkių siurblys (The Monstrous Vacuum Cleaner), and the initial letter B in the children’s magazine Genys (1967, No 5). Paper, pencil, gouache, paper cut. 27.5×21.5 and 18.5×8.2. Lithuanian Literature and Art Archive
The original title of this photograph was: An Exemplary Set of Children’s Room Furniture made by the Experimental Construction Bureau of the Board of Furniture and Wood Processing at the Council of the National Economy of the Lithuanian SSR. 1964. Photograph by Ilja Fišeris. Lithuanian Central State Archives
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Arūnas Tarabilda The cover, frontispiece and illustrations to Rimantas Budrys’ book Kelionė į griovį (Journey to the Ditch; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1961)
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Kastytis Skromanas The cover and illustrated double-page spreads for Vytautė Žilinskaitė’s book Senelio Šalčio ūsai (Jack Frost’s Moustache; Vilnius: Vaga, 1969; print run 40,000 copies)
Domicelė Tarabildienė The cover and illustration to Anzelmas Matutis’ poetry book Miško cirkas (The Forest Circus; Vilnius: Vaga, 1969; print run 40,000 copies)
The artist, who was already close to 60 years old, decided to change her style. Maybe it was
her son Arūnas’ example that encouraged Tarabildienė to use pieces of photographs cut from
colour magazines, or maybe she longed to recall her own youthful passion for photography
and photo-collages which she had discarded after finishing her studies at the Kaunas Art School.
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Lidija Glinskienė The cover and illustrations to Aleksas Baltrūnas book Katė ir balandis (The Cat and the Pigeon; Vilnius: Vaga, 1967, print run 25,000 copies)
Lidija Glinskienė Illustrations Džiazas (Jazz; 1966, paper, gouache, paper cut, 22.6x17.6, the author’s collection) and Bobutė ant rogučių (Granny on a Sleigh; 1966, paper, gouache, paper cut, 22.6x17.6, the author’s collection) for Aleksas Baltrūnas’ book Katė ir balandis
In her paper cut illustrations, Glinskienė takes a sculptural approach to form. Her ability to show
without showing is amazing. The backgrounds of the paper cut compositions are in a uniform,
plain colour, yet all the illustrations seem to be full of action and rich in detail. The old little woman,
perched on a sledge, has no eyes, but only eye-glasses, yet we feel we can see her pensive look.
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Vladislovas Žilius The cover and illustration to Emilija Balionienė’s book Popieriniai drugeliai (Paper Butterflies; Vilnius: Vaga, 1973; print run 25,000 copies)
Vladislovas Žilius is the only well-known artist from Soviet times who consistently applied Op Art
and Pop Art, principles of Western Modernism, to his work. He opposed the system not only
aesthetically, but also practically: he applied for permission to leave Lithuania for Israel, to live
with relatives of his Jewish wife. For this, he was expelled from the Artist’s Union, and lost his right
to participate in public artistic life. As a gesture of protest against this, in 1976 he wrote an open
letter to the secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party. After that, he was allowed to leave
the USSR. It is interesting to note that Teodora Každailienė, another admirer of Pop Art, also belonged
to the dissidents.
Lithuanian artists received lessons in Modernism primarily from the Czech
and Polish, but from around 1965, books, folio art editions and magazines from
France, Britain and America also started circulating. In general, Pop Art and Op
Art were perceived as the road to Western youth culture. In Lithuania, the styles
were embraced and interpreted as the manifestation of a new and youthful
way of life. In other words, Pop Art was associated with colourful shirts, flared
trousers, long hair, beards, and music by The Beatles. The Soviet system worried
about all these things, and tried to protect itself by persecuting youngsters with
long hair, and later on jeans, and also by banning The Beatles and rock music. All
of the artists who replicated the style (Teodora Každailienė, Arvydas Každailis
and Vladislovas Žilius) stuck in the minds of their contemporaries as icons of
fashion. Každailis refers to his illustrations to Algimantas Mikuta’s book on cars
as a reflection of a longing for the “comforts and dynamics of the Western way
of life”. This theme, according him, also prompted the “synthetic” colours which
were then unusual in Lithuania. “At the time, we were not yet thinking of ecology,”
he laughs. “I enjoyed showing smoke, colourful puffs of exhaust fumes, because
I needed to create an impression of stress, noise and the roar of the city.”
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A poster for the film Kur iškeliauja pasakos (Where the Fairy Tales Leave; Lithuanian Film Studio, 1973, directed by Algirdas Dausa) by Miroslavas Znamerovskis. 1974. Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, Art Editions Department
Vladislovas Žilius The cover and frontispiece spread to Mykolas Sluckis’ book Vai tai dūda (Vilnius: Vaga, 1972)
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Arvydas Každailis Illustrations to Algimantas Mikuta’s book Mūsų automobiliai (Our Cars; Vilnius: Vaga, 1972; print run 50,000 copies). 1972, paper, watercolour, 17.8×22. Courtesy of the author
Teodora Každailienė Illustrations to Romualdas Lankauskas’ book Kur ūkia laivai (Where the Ships Hoot; Vilnius: Vaga, 1970; print run 25,000 copies)
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Kastytis Juodikaitis Illustrations to Aldona Liobytė’s book Tėveli, būk mažas (Daddy, Be Small; Vilnius: Vaga, 1973, print run 25,000 copies)
The wall paintings by Birutė Žilytė and Algirdas Steponavičius in the Pušelė (Little Pine) children’s tuberculosis sanatorium in Valkininkai. C. 1972. Photograph by M. Kuraitis. Lithuanian Central State Archives
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Lili Paškauskaitė The cover and an etching as an illustration to Albinas Žukauskas’ book Debesų piemenė (The Cloud Shepherdess; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1963)
Arvydas Každailis The cover and illustrated double-page spreads for Vytautas Rudokas’ Soviet- inspired book of poetry Kai Žemė patekės (When the Earth Rises; Vilnius: Vaga, 1967). The artist combined elements of Polish chil-dren’s book illustrations with his own impressions of paintings by Paul Klee which made a huge impact on him
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A photograph by the famous Lithuanian photographer Algimantas Kunčius Palm Sunday in Vilnius. At the Gates of Dawn, taken in 1968
Selling traditional Vilnius verbos, decorations made from dried plants, at churches on Palm
Sunday was an act of defiance in Soviet times. The police persecuted verbos sellers and
buyers; some were taken into custody, and charged with conducting illegal transactions in
the streets, which, according to Soviet law, was punishable as “speculation”. Despite the
repressions, the actions were repeated every year. People defended their right to preserve
their traditions and publicly proclaim their faith.
Petras Repšys The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for the collection of children’s poetry by Sigitas Geda Užmigę žirgeliai (Little Horses Asleep; Vilnius: Vaga, 1970)
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Petras Repšys The cover, frontispiece and an illustrated double-page spread for the Lithuanian fairy tale Našlaitė Elenytė ir Joniukas aviniukas (Elenytė the Orphan and Joniukas the Little Lamb; Vilnius: Vaga, 1971; print run 50,000 copies; 2nd edition, improved by the artist, in 1991; 3rd edition in 2006)
Colleagues and contemporaries saw in Repšys’ illustrations to fairy tale Našlaitė Elenytė ir Joniukas
aviniukas the amalgam of the influences of both Baroque art and of Lithuanian folk art. The artist
himself stressed his intention to acquaint children with the classic structure of the book: “The book
contained twenty pages. Not many, but they were all mine. I could do whatever I wanted. At that
time, there were no decent typefaces. So I drew the whole text. The cover, the fly leaf, the title page,
the headpieces, the initial letters, the page illustrations, the endpieces: all the details were there, in
the layout of the book. Children could read a classic example of a book”.
Petras Repšys, edited by Laima Kanopkienė and Eugenijus Karpavičius, Vilnius: Kultūros barai, 2006, p. 46
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From the Treasury of Folk Art
From the end of the 1950s, great efforts were made to rescue the national identity,
which was increasingly threatened by the wear and tear of the Soviet reality. A song
which was popular across the Soviet Union, claiming that “My address is not a street
or a house, my address is the Soviet Union”, was cited in Lithuania only ironically.
The rural cultural tradition was considered one of the cornerstones of the national
identity. Yet it was dwindling every day, with new industrial centres emerging,
with factories and factory workers’ settlements. The countryside was destroyed
not only by migration to the towns, but also by the collective farm system that
was enforced by the Soviets. Those who were unwilling to be engulfed by Soviet
uniformity saw woodcarving, weaving and colour woodcuts by nameless country
artisans as a lifeline. Still breathing in the countryside, yet mostly preserved in
archives and museums, the folk heritage became a source of inspiration to artists.
The primitive tradition took root, and developed in children’s books as well. The
visual heritage was first of all adopted to illustrate the growing number of works
of folklore published for children, such as books of riddles and counting rhymes,
fairy tales and legends.
The primitive folk style was connected with the modernisation of Lithuanian art
at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, while the work of Albina Makūnaitė, who was
recognised as one of the most prominent artists of the style, was sent to represent
Soviet Modernism at the 31st Venice Biennial in 1962. Algirdas Steponavičius and
Birutė Žilytė were considered the most “influential” primitivists. Their children’s
book illustrations, alongside the work of Makūnaitė, were elevated to the category
of “high art”, and considered to be among the most important examples of national
Modernism. In these illustrations, artists and art critics valued qualities that tended
to scare children: the impulsive, straightforward and crude didactics of a folk tale,
its cruelty and de-idealised and almost grotesque characters. Yet both professionals
and children, as the main readers of these books, agreed on the colour scheme for
the illustrations. The pure, vibrant, contrasting colours of the books Varlė karalienė
(The Frog Queen), Aukso sietelis (The Golden Sieve), Pasaka apie narsią Vilniaus
mergelę ir galvažudį Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Little Girl from Vilnius and
Greenbeard the Killer) stood out as luxuries amidst the greyness of Soviet printing.
“We had to go to the printers in Kaunas when the first books were printed,” recalls
Žilytė. “We talked to them, and asked them to leave the colours pure. The printers
were even used to watering down black. Somehow, it was imagined that everything
had to be grey.” According to Žilytė, her and Steponavičius’ illustrations stood out
with their vibrant colours, even at the First Bratislava Biennial in 1967 where they
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Albina Makūnaitė The cover and illustrated double-page spreads for Aldona Liobytė’s story Saulės vaduotojas (The Liberator of the Sun; Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1959; print run 50,000 copies)
Saulės vaduotojas was accepted in Lithuania as a groundbreaking example, proving the possibility
to reject Socialist Realism and modernise graphic art using the principles of primitive art
(in this case, Lithuanian folk art). The book was translated into several languages, including Swahili.
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Algirdas Steponavičius The dust jacket, frontis-piece and illustrations for Kostas Kubilinskas’ fairy tale in verse Varlė karalienė (The Frog Queen; 1st edi-tion Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962; print run 15,000 copies; 2nd edition Vilnius: Vaga, 1967, 25,000 copies)
Varlė karalienė was one of the most popular books in Soviet Lithuania, loved by children and
their parents, and recognised by professionals. For its illustrations, the artist was awarded
the Gold Medal at the 1965 Leipzig Book Fair and the Golden Apple at the 1967 Biennale of
Children’s Book Illustration in Bratislava (BIB).
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A poster for the exhibition of Lithuanian children’s book illustration in the German State Library in East Berlin, 1972, with Steponavičius’ illustration to the book Varlė karalienė
Algirdas Steponavičius The double-page spreads for Kostas Kubilinskas’ fairy tale in verse Varlė karalienė (The Frog Queen; 1st edition Vilnius: Valstybinė grožinės literatūros leidykla, 1962; print run 15,000 copies; 2nd edition Vilnius: Vaga, 1967, 25,000 copies)
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The sign for the Nykštukas (The Gnome) children’s cafe, based on a drawing by Algirdas Steponavičius and its interior by the architects Zigmantas Lianzbergis and Jonas Kriukelis, with wall paintings by Birutė Žilytė, Steponavičius and Laimutis Ločeris. 1964. Photographs by Marius Baranauskas. Lithuanian Central State Archives
The opening of the Nykštukas cafe in 1964 was an important event for all of Lithuania.
Several generations of Vilnius children sat at its small tables in this café, eating specially
prepared children’s food: small meatballs, thin little sausages, cakes and biscuits, enjoying
the bright pictures on the walls, and watching fish swimming in tanks. Outside, in front
of the café, waiting parents queued with their children: everyone wanted to go to
Nykštukas, and it was not possible to reserve tables. While waiting in the street, children
could watch squirrels running around in glass cases decorated with moss and tree stumps.
This small book is associated with the stylistic maturity of the artist; it made a huge impression
on his contemporaries and on graphic artists of the younger generations. It is mentioned by
Lidija Glinskienė, Stasys Eidrigevičius, Sigutė Chlebinskaitė and other renowned Lithuanian book
illustrators as an important creative influence. According to the artist’s admirers, behind his
apparently simple images there lurked immeasurable spaces, and echoes of speculation on the
secret corners of the human soul.
Algirdas Steponavičius The cover and an illus-trated double-page spreads for the collection of Lithuanian folk riddles and sayings Šepetys repetys (Mop Shmop; edited by Leonardas Sauka, Vilnius: Vaga, 1965)
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Algirdas Steponavičius Illustrations to Martynas Vainilaitis’ poem Vilko draugystė (The Wolf’s Friendship) in the children’s magazine Genys (1967, No 3). Paper, pencil, gouache, paper cut; right part: 29.5×21.5; left part: 18.5×21.5. Lithuanian Literature and Art Archive
"My pictures are not straightforward illustrations to the text; rather, they are universal artistic
structures speaking about being. The plots of the fairy tales are not really important, they are
immersed in the lurking shapes."
Algirdas Steponavičius, May 1989, in 72 lietuvių dailininkai apie dailę, edited by Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, Vilnius: VDA leidykla, 1998, p. 275.
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Birutė Žilytė Illustrations to Janis Rainis’ collected fairy tales Aukso sietelis (The Golden Sieve; Vilnius: Vaga, 1967): a pub-lic presentation of abstract artistic compositions, and the important element of a figural composition of fairy-tale content, ensuring the possibility of such a presentation
Birutė Žilytė The cover and illustrations to Aldona Liobytė‘s book Pabėgusi dainelė (The Runaway Song; Vilnius: Vaga, 1966; print run 40,000 copies)
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Lidija Glinskienė The cover and an illustrated double-page spread for Mykolas Sluckis’ story Ugnelis, septynių nugalėtojas (Little Fire, Conqueror of Seven; Vilnius: Vaga, 1965; print run 25,000 copies)
Lidija Glinskienė The cover and illustration for the Sammi folk tale Karžygys Leinė (Leinė the Warrior) retold by Anzelmas Matutis (Vilnius: Vaga, 1965; print run 10,000 copies)
Lidija Glinskienė The cover and illustrations to Mykolas Sluckis’ story Geležinnagė (Iron Finger-nails; Vilnius: Vaga, 1968; print run 25,000 copies)
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Bronius Leonavičius The cover and an illus-trated double-page spread for the tale Lapės rogutės (The Fox’s Sleigh; Vilnius: Vaga, 1966; print run 50,000 copies)
Bronius Leonavičius The cover and an illustra-tion to Judita Vaičiūnaitė’s poetry book Spalvoti piešiniai (Colourful Drawings; Vilnius: Vaga, 1971; print run 50,000 copies)
Aspazija Surgailienė The cover and an illus-trated double-page spread for the Lithuanian folk tale Katinėlis ir gaidelis (The Cat and the Cock; in the series Seku seku pasaką; Vilnius: Vaga, 1967; 75,000 copies)
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Leonardas Gutauskas The cover and illustrated double-page spreads for his own poetry book Du žvirbliai (Two Sparrows; Vilnius: Vaga, 1969)
Zosė Vasilenkaitė The cover and illustration to Mykolas Sluckis’ book Skrido bitė vakarienės (The Bee Flew Home for Supper; Vilnius: Vaga, 1969; print run 50,000 copies)
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“For me, it is interesting to live in the enchanting world of my thoughts and dreams, to wander
in the depositories of memory, with ever-changing images, things, people’s destinies, meadows,
nights, funerals, Catalonian frescoes … It is as if you had entered through invisible doors into ever
new spaces, where strange visions are forming.
It is interesting to feel the world collecting itself in myself. It shrinks to a small pea, it becomes a thought,
and then spreads, growing like a huge plant with many branches, up to the sky, and then higher …
I am the only one who can inhabit the kingdom of my thoughts. It started with me, it will end with
me. A world coming into being through me is for me more real than reality. I feel a strange desire to
spread it further around myself, to the other side of the limits of my being. There is the wish to draw.”
Birutė Žilytė, 20.6.1989, in 72 lietuvių dailininkai apie dailę, edited by Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, Vilnius: VDA leidykla, 1998, p. 357.
Birutė Žilytė The cover, frontispiece and Illustrated double-page spreads to Aldona Liobytė’s collection of tales Pasaka apie narsią Vilniaus mergelę ir galvažudį Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Little Girl from Vilnius and Greenbeard the Killer; Vilnius: Vaga, 1970)
This book was ambiguously received by children: some loved it, some hated it; but nobody could
remain indifferent to it. It attracted much interest from artists, and Birutė Žilytė was awarded
the Gold Medal at the 1971 Leipzig Book Fair for it. It is related to traditions in Lithuanian folk art,
but is also heavily influenced by the colours and shapes of Pop Art. The artist still likes to tell how
she herself had to oversee the printing of the book, trying to persuade the printers to preserve
the extraordinarily bright colours of the illustrations.
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Algirdas Steponavičius The dust-jacket, frontis-piece and illustrations to Petras Cvirka’s book Nemuno šalies pasakos (Tales from the Land of the Nemunas; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1988; print run 30,000 copies)
The time it took to produce this book is remarkable: the printing work started on 13 April 1984 and
finished three years later on 20 May 1987. Steponavičius worked on the illustrations for about ten
years, going over all the publisher’s deadlines. The publishers waited, and the result was well worth
the wait. Nemuno šalies pasakos might be considered a landmark in Lithuanian art; it expresses
both universal aesthetic values and the concept of national modernism. Also important is the fact
that, considering the poor conditions of Soviet book printing, the book was beautifully printed
at the experimental printing press in Moscow at 30 Tsvetnoy Boulevard.
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Algirdas Steponavičius Illustrations to Petras Cvirka’s book Nemuno šalies pasakos (Tales from the Land of the Nemunas; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1988; print run 30,000 copies)
Steponavičius wrote about his own work: “It is as if my eyes and my consciousness were cut
open by a knife, opened up to all kinds of mad visions. Humming, groaning, writhing clumps
of life, knotted seesaws of blind instincts, moans, desires, pulsating waves of blood, open sighing
mouths, life itself whining, crawling, untwisting into various shapes. Slimy algae, strange creatures
with tongues, plants with bulbous joints, scaly fish, beetles with mysterious marks, and also
singing beetles with beaks of bone. Ants, princes, thieves, beasts, barefoot children, sick people
with sticks, jokers, merchants, dogs, pilgrims: a living procession from the past to the future.
Everything is mixed up: killings, feasts, love, crucifixions. […] I am always lonely in my separateness,
though my love is turned towards other worlds.”
Algirdas Steponavičius, May 1989, in 72 lietuvių dailininkai apie dailę, edited by Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, Vilnius: VDA leidykla, 1998, pp. 272-273.
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Children’s Book Illustration and the Stagnation of the Brezhnev Era
New residents of the Vilnius suburb of Baltupiai. 1978. Photograph by Eugenijus Šiško. Lithuanian Central State Archives
In its last decades, the Soviet system lost its energy. Every fi eld of human activity
was run down. The technical level in children’s book publishing declined. The
only bright linings to this dark cloud were the translations of children’s books
from Polish, Czech, Finnish and Swedish, and classic foreign children’s literature.
Quite frequently, translations of foreign writers were printed with their original
illustrations, which gave a chance to feel, although from a distance, the pulse of the
outside world, to see the work of other artists. Lithuanian artists mostly illustrated
work by Lithuanian writers; poetry books were especially popular. Illustrations by
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local artists for translations of children’s books were rare, and probably only for
classics, such as Stasys Eidrigevičius’ 1985 illustrations for Hoffmann’s Aukso puodas
ir kitos istorijos (The Golden Pot and Other Tales).
The 1970s and 1980s, the so-called period of “mature Socialism”, was a time of
apathy, disillusion and fatigue across the entire Soviet Union. Encumbered by the
discredited ideology, society froze and withdrew into a private daily life. The artist-
romantic of the 1960s was replaced by the melancholy sceptic, aware of the problems
of society, but preferring to escape from them. Naturally, artists readily embraced
a trend which emerged out of Surrealist aesthetics, suffused with metaphorical
images. The aesthetics of ennui developed a number of manifestations, casting a
shadow across even the illustration of children’s books.
The founding of Vyturys, a specialist publisher of children’s books, in 1985,
served as an organisational stimulus for publishing children’s books. Prior to
that, there was no such specialised publisher in Lithuania. Children’s books
were produced by Vaga and Šviesa. This new publisher grew out of the children’s
literature section at Vaga. It specialised in publishing Lithuanian books for
children and young adults, and foreign authors in translation. It also produced
translations of Lithuanian writers in Russian and other foreign languages. It
gave priority to printing books for the youngest pre-reading age audience. Its
first international recognition was the Golden Pen from Belgrade, awarded in
1990 for Janina Degutytė’s picture book Naujieji Metai (The New Year, 1985),
illustrated by Kęstutis Kasparavičius.
Vyturys was seen as a small organisation, though it had a staff of 95, of whom 28
were editors. It produced annually over 140 new titles, with an average print run of
40,000. Some titles saw print runs of 100,000 (for a country of three million people,
of whom only 80 per cent read in Lithuanian, these figures are huge). Despite such
large print runs, there was a constant shortage of attractive children’s books, as a
part of the production of this new publisher was “compulsory” ideological literature,
and parents were reluctant to buy those books for their children.
Vyturys attracted new illustrators, and at the same time tried to meet the demand
for children’s books by reprinting successful titles. In 1985, Aldona Liobytė’s Pasaka
apie narsią Vilniaus mergelę ir galvažudį Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Little
Girl from Vilnius and Greenbeard the Killer, illustrated by Birutė Žilytė) saw its
second edition, as did Vytautė Žilinskaitė’s long short story Robotas ir peteliškė
(The Robot and the Butterfly, illustrated by Stasys Eidrigevičius), and other books.
The 1980s saw several collections of illustrated Lithuanian folk tales, among them
Močiutės pasakos (Grandma’s Fairy Tales, 1985, illustrated by Taida Balčiūnaitė),
Nemuno šalies pasakos (Tales from the Land of the Nemunas by Petras Cvirka, 1988,
illustrated by Algirdas Steponavičius), the folk tales Gyvasis vanduo (The Water of
Life, 1989, illustrated by Irena Žviliuvienė), and others. These books also performed a
role in representing Lithuanian culture in general, and the publishers never rushed
the artists, hoping to get the best possible results from them. Algirdas Steponavičius
set a record by taking over ten years to illustrate the book Nemuno šalies pasakos. It
was printed in Moscow by an experimental printers, and was impressive in artistic
and technical terms. It won prizes at various book fairs and exhibitions.
The work of Lithuanian artists was known both in the Soviet Union and abroad.
Had it not been for bureaucratic obstacles (artists had to obtain permission
from Moscow to take their illustrations abroad, and it was extremely difficult for
publishers and artists to travel to book fairs outside the country), books illustrated
by Lithuanian artists would undoubtedly have been noticed by more publishers.
The foremost figure in children’s book illustration of the 1970s and 1980s was
Stasys Eidrigevičius. At that time, his work transported little readers from their
gloomy, mundane lives into the exciting realm of illustration. His ingenious view
of the world, his boundless imagination and his eye for paradox, blending the
grotesque with melancholy, satisfied, for many, a longing for a different world.
Eidrigevičius created compelling images of the relationship between an individual
and the surrounding world. In his books, a child emerges as essentially lonely,
connected to the world by paradoxical ties. In 1979, his illustrations to Vytautė
Žilinskaitė’s long short story Robotas ir peteliškė (published in 1978) were awarded
the BIB Grand Prix. It was the artist’s first international recognition. His illustrations
to Eduardas Mieželaitis’ collection of poems Miško pasaka (A Forest Tale; Vilnius:
Vaga, 1981) were also a success.
The formation of Eidrigevičius’ artistic style was strongly influenced by the work
of Algirdas Steponavičius, especially his illustrations to Petras Cvirka’s Nemuno
šalies pasakos. Eidrigevičius had the opportunity to observe Steponavičius at work
when visiting him and his wife Birutė Žilytė. This influence is clear in his early work,
in his black and white drawings for Kazys Saja’s Už nevarstomų durų (Behind the
Never Opened Door; Vilnius: Vaga, 1978) and his illustrations to the long short story
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by Vytautas Misevičius Danuko Dunduliuko nuotykiai (The Adventures of Danukas
Dunduliukas; Vilnius: Vaga, 1979).
In the 1980s, Lithuania discovered the talent of Kęstutis Kasparavičius, the most
renowned contemporary Lithuanian children’s book illustrator. He attracted the
attention of readers and publishers with his colour drawings for Gottfried August
Bürger’s masterpiece Barono Miunhauzeno nuostabios kelionės (The Adventures of
Baron Münchhausen; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1987). Immediately afterwards, he illustrated
Oscar Milosz’s gloomy and mysterious Lietuviškos pasakos (Lithuanian Folk Tales;
Vilnius: Vyturys, 1989). In the context of the period, Kasparavičius’ work stood out
by its classic style. Young readers of books illustrated by him, and their parents
as well, enjoyed his detailed and meticulous drawings and their muted colours.
However, with the worsening economic situation and the deteriorating quality of
printing, local publishers found themselves unable to commission work produced
in such a time-consuming and thorough manner. Kasparavičius’ last work in Soviet
Lithuania was his illustrations to the collection of poetry by his father Jonas, Toj
pirkelėj seneliukas (There is a Little Old Man in this Hut, 1989) and Ten už miško
(On the Far Edge of the Forest, 1990, unpublished). This was followed by a lengthy
period when he collaborated exclusively with foreign publishers.
Quite a few remember the 1980s as the beginning of cartoons in Lithuanian.
Some of the characters who first appeared in the comic strips printed by the
children’s magazines Genys and Žvaigždutė became so popular that they continued
their lives published in series in children’s books. A cult figure in the period’s comic
strips was the pig Čiukas. It was drawn by several artists, while its final image was
formed by the caricaturist Vitalijus Suchockis. Dovanėlė (A Little Present; Vilnius:
Vyturys, 1988) by the cartoonist Ilja Bereznickas was one of the most favoured books
of comic strips.
A stylistic affinity with the cartoon genre, his deft lines and brushwork, brought
success for Rimvydas Kepežinskas. A brilliant animal artist, skilfully imparting a
human character to dogs, cats and birds, Kepežinskas’ work is recognised by his
joyful mood, although it is tinged with irony. His most prominent works from the
period are his illustrations to Sigitas Geda’s book Praniukas Pramaniūgas (Clever
Praniukas; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1986), Jonas Avyžius’ long short story Bardas nuotykiai
ir žygiai (Bardas’ Adventures and Feats; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1987) and Ivan Krylov’s
Pasakėčios (Fables; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1988).
The regained political independence in Lithuania brought about immense
changes across all fields of human activity, including the publishing of children’s
books. In this period of dramatic political shifts, the area experienced an interruption
of a few years. It resumed only at the turn of the 21st century, but is turning a new
page. Although some of the names have remained the same, the story is different.
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Stasys Eidrigevičius The frontispiece spread and an illustration to Kazys Saja’s book Už nevarstomų durų (Behind the Never Opened Door; Vilnius: Vaga, 1978). This was one of the first books to be illustrated by Eidrigevičius
A poster for the Fourth Lithuanian Feast of Children’s Books. 1981, by Almona Gudaitienė. Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, Art Editions Department
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Stasys Eidrigevičius The cover and an illustration to Eduardas Mieželaitis’ book Miško pasaka (The Forest Tale; Vilnius: Vaga, 1981)
Stasys Eidrigevičius The cover, frontispiece spread and illustrations to Vytautas Misevičius’ book Danuko Dunduliuko nuotykiai (The Adventures of Danukas Dunduliukas; Vilnius: Vaga, 1979)
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A poster for the children’s film Andrius (Lithuanian Film Studio, 1980, directed by Algirdas Araminas). 1981, by Miroslavas Znamerovskis. Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, Art Editions Department
Stasys Eidrigevičius The cover and illustrations to Eduardas Mieželaitis’ book Dainos Dienoraštis (Daina’s Diary; Vilnius: Vaga, 1983)
Eduardas Mieželaitis, one of the best-known poets in Soviet Lithuania, wrote this children’s book
based on the thoughts of his daughter Daina. The short tales, told by a child and retold by her father,
are enriched by mysterious illustrations by Stasys Eidrigevičius.
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Taida Balčiūnaitė The cover and double- page spreads to Petras Cvirka’s book Gaidys Giedorius (The Crooner Cock; Vilnius: Vaga, 1982)
The artist used cloth cuts for these illustrations. Lithuanian readers greatly appreciated the book.
In 1983 it was reprinted in Lithuanian, translated into Russian, and later, in the framework of
the so-called National Friendship Programme, it was translated into English (1986) and Esperanto
Rimvydas Kepežinskas The cover and double-page spreads to Sigitas Geda’s book Praniukas Pramaniūgas (Clever Praniukas; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1986)
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Ilja Bereznickas The cover and illustration to the comic strip Dovanėlė (The Little Present; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1988)
Comic strips, much loved by children, were published in the children’s magazines Genys (Woodpecker)
and Žvaigždutė (Little Star) from the 1960s; later, they were published as separate books.
Leonardas Gutauskas The cover and illustrations to his own book Geležinė varlė (The Iron Frog; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1988)
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Kęstutis Kasparavičius The cover and an illustra-tion to Oscar Milosz’ book Lietuviškos pasakos (Lithuanian Fairy Tales; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1989)
Kęstutis Kasparavičius The cover and illustrations to Anzelmas Matutis’ book Žilo šilo darbininkai (The Workers of the Grey Forest; Kaunas: Šviesa, 1985)
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Kęstutis Kasparavičius The cover and illustrations to Jonas Kasparavičius’ book Toj pirkelėj seneliukas (There is a Little Old Man in this Hut; Vilnius: Vyturys, 1989)
Working on illustrations to the poetry book by his father, who spent his whole life as a teacher
in a school in a small town, the artist immersed himself in his memories of his own childhood.
This modestly published book is full of nostalgia and the warmth of home. Especially moving is
the picture accompanying the poem Į baltą tolį (Into the White Beyond): Krinta ir krinta / Sidabro
snaigės, / Per baltą mišką / Einu apsvaigęs. / Čia stirnos bėgta, / Čia kiškio guolis, / Einu su medžiais /
Į baltą tolį (Silver snowflakes / Are falling, falling, / Through the white forest / I go feeling hazy. /
Here are the footsteps of a deer, / There the hare has slept, / Together with the trees / I go into
the white beyond).
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Artist’s Biographies performances. He has illustrated about 40 books, mostly for children; 15 of them were commissioned by Lithuanian book publishers. He won his first important award, the Golden Badge, at the Children’s Book Illustrators’ Biennial in Bratislava in 1979 for Robotas ir peteliškė (The Robot and the Butterfly), written by the Lithuanian writer Vytautė Žilinskaitė. Later, he won many international awards for his book illustrations and posters. In 2001 he won the Lithuanian National Prize. He likes to sign his work
“Stasys”, and usually introduces himself as a Polish artist.
Gibavičius, RimtautasBorn in Kaunas in 1935, he died in Vilnius in 1993. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1960 with a diploma in graphic art. He taught as a professor at the institute from 1962. He was active in many fields: engraving, posters, murals, costume design, theatre sets and book illustrating. Gibavičius was one of the most distinctive and influential Lithuanian artists in the 1960s and 1970s. He was awarded various prizes for his book designs and illustrations in Lithuania and the Soviet Union. He began to illustrate children’s books in the 1960s, and illustrated four books by Lithuanian writers. He attempted to reform the whole principle of the design and illustration of children’s books.
Glinskienė, LidijaBorn in Ramygala in 1938, she lives in Vilnius. She graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in Vilnius in 1963, and began to work as an artist for the Experimental Artistic Construction Bureau, where she designed projects for the packaging and advertising of toys. She has illustrated about ten children’s books since 1964, participated in shows in Lithuania, Estonia and Italy, developed the concept of the folklore tradition, and implemented new means of expression. She won an award in Tallinn in 1968 for her illustrations to the fairy tale Geležinnagė (Iron Fingernails) by Mykolas Sluckis. In 1969, the book represented Soviet children’s book illustration at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna.
Gutauskas, LeonardasBorn in Kaunas in 1938, he lives in Vilnius. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1965 with a diploma in scenography. A talented artist and writer, he works in many spheres, including painting, book illustrating, writing stories, novels and poems for adults, fairy tales and poems for children, and song lyrics. He has been a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union since 1967, and a member of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union since 1976. He has published 11 books of poems and seven
novels, and illustrated 17 children’s books written by him and other Lithuanian writers. Awarded even more prizes for literature, Gutauskas is considered to be an original and talented illustrator of children’s books both in Lithuania and abroad.
Juodikaitis, KastytisBorn in the village of Degučiai in the Ukmergė district in 1932, he died in Grigiškės in the Vilnius district in 2000. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1960 with a diploma in graphic art. He made illustrations for the children’s magazine Genys. In 1969 he was awarded a diploma for the primary school second form reader Abėcėlė (The Alphabet) at the Leipzig Book Fair. Juodikaitis has participated in exhibitions of engravings and ex libris, and illustrated about 40 children’s books. He made his most nteresting illustrations in the 1960s.
Kalpokas, RimtasBorn in Munich in 1903, he died in Kaunas in 1990. He completed his studies at the Kaunas Art School in 1929, and at the Higher Industrial Art Institute in Monza in Italy in 1935. He taught at the Kaunas Art School from 1935, and at the Kaunas Applied Art Institute in 1940. He joined the Lithuanian Artists’ Union in 1946. Kalpokas’ oeuvre includes paintings, posters, book illustrations and book design. He illustrated children’s books from the end of the 1930s until the beginning of the 1950s, and is considered to be a pioneer in modern children’s book illustration.
Kasparavičius, Kęstutis Born in Aukštadvaris in 1972, he studied choir conducting at the Vilnius M.K. Čiurlionis Art School and entered the Lithuanian State Art Institute, graduating in 1981 with a diploma in design. He started to illustrate children’s books in 1984. He collaborates with book publishers in Lithuania, Germany (Esslinger, Coppenrath), Taiwan (Grimm Press), the USA (Harry N. Abrams), and others. He has illustrated about 50 children’s books, and written eight of them. His illustrations have earned him many Lithuanian and international awards (the Golden Feather of Belgrade in 1990, Illustrator of the Year in Bologna in 1993, a diploma at the Book Fair in Bologna in 2003, and a diploma at the Tallinn Book Illustration Triennial in 2006; he has also been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Prize). In Lithuania he is appreciated by mothers and children as one of the most popular children’s book illustrators,
Balčiūnaitė, TaidaBorn in Kaunas in 1952 into the family of the children’s book illustrator Taida Balčiūnienė, she was married to the book designer Saulius Chlebinskas; their daughter Sigutė Chlebinskaitė is well-known book designer. Taida Balčiūnaitė lives and works in Vilnius. She graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1976 with a diploma in graphic art. Since 1981, she has been a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union. She has taken part in all book graphics exhibitions in Lithuania since 1977, and in book illustrators’ shows in Moscow and Bratislava. She has illustrated over 50 books for children and adults, most of them poetry books, and also school textbooks. Her first illustrations were published in the children’s magazine Genys (The Woodpecker).
Balčiūnienė, TaidaBorn in 1925 in Kaunas, where she still lives. She graduated from the Kaunas Institute of Applied and Decorative Art in 1951 with a diploma in architecture. She has been a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union since 1961, and has participated in exhibitions since 1963. She has brought up nine children. Her eldest daughter Taida Balčiūnaitė and her granddaughter Sigutė Chlebinskaitė also work as book illustrators. She was one of the most popular children’s book illustrators in the 1960s and 1970s, making illustrations for short stories and poetry, and illustrating textbooks for primary schools. In the 1970s, Progress Publishers in Moscow published books in English and Russian illustrated by her.
Banys, VytautasBorn in Panevėžys in 1920, he died in Kaunas in 1989. He graduated from the Kaunas Institute of Applied and Decorative Art in 1947 with a diploma in stained glass and mural painting. Banys was exiled to Siberia in 1950 and held in a camp for political prisoners until 1955. After his return to Lithuania, he taught at the Kaunas Art Gymnasium. He painted pictures, made several murals, and illustrated about 15 children’s books. In 1963, he won an award at the Moscow Exhibition of Economic Achievements for the schoolbook Gimtasis žodis (The
Mother Tongue). He was famous for his exceptionally fine drawings.
Bereznickas, IljaBorn in Vilnius in 1948. A graphic artist, film animator and director, he graduated in 1970 from the Kaunas Polytechnic Institute with a diploma in architecture. In 1985, he attended a course in Moscow on film directing, where he studied animated film. He has been a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union since 1981, and a member of the Lithuanian Cinematographers’ Union since 1988. He has worked as a children’s book illustrator since 1980, creating comic books and drawing cartoons. Bereznickas has worked for film studios in Tallinn, Moscow and Israel. Since 2002, he has worked as a teacher on the animation course at Vilnius Academy of Art.
Dilka, VincasBorn in the village of Baibokai in the Panevėžys district in 1912, he died in Vilnius in 1997. He left Kaunas Art School in 1937, and afterwards took an internship at the Royal Academy of Art in Rome. From 1939, Dilka participated in exhibitions in Lithuania and Russia. He was a professor of painting at higher art schools in Kaunas and Vilnius from 1940. He worked mostly in the field of painting, gaining fame for his 1950 picture Kolūkio steigiamasis susirinkimas (Meeting to Establish a Collective Farm), which embodied the principles of social realism. He began to illustrate children’s books in the early postwar years.
Eidrigevičius, StasysBorn in the village of Mediniškiai in the Panevėžys district in 1949. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1973 with a diploma in teaching art, and for some time worked as an artist at the Vilnius Philharmonic Hall. In 1975, he married Lucyna Sinkiewicz, a student at the Warsaw Academy of Art, emigrated to Poland in 1980, and settled in Warsaw. Eidrigevičius has created graphic works and paintings, ex libris, posters, miniatures, photographs and
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for eight children’s books, and drawings for children’s magazines. His illustrations for Eduardas Mieželaitis’ poem Zuikis Puikis (Puikis the Hare), which were stylistically close to the early Walt Disney films, made him famous: they have been published in Lithuanian, Russian, Slovak and Arabic).
Kulakauskas, TelesforasTelesforas Kulakauskas was born in the village Klykoliai near Akmenė in 1907, and died in Vilnius in 1977. He studied at Kaunas Art School from 1928 to 1933, and from 1935 to 1936 went on study tours to Paris and Germany. Kulakauskas taught at Kaunas Institute of Applied Art. In the late 1940s, he was art director at the State Publishing House. In 1947 he moved to Vilnius. His legacy includes aquatints and engravings; the artist also worked for the theatre and designed posters, but his reputation is based on his caricatures and book illustrations. From the 1930s to the 1960s he designed and illustrated more then 200 books. Kulakauskas’ work is marked by his skill in creating expressive hand-drawn lettering and prominent character types for children’s books. His style emerged in the 1930s under the influence of Art Deco and Neo-Traditionalism, and did not change much throughout his career. His most famous illustrations for children’s books are from the 1950s and 1960s.
Ladigaitė-Vildžiūnienė, MarijaBorn on the Gulbinėnai estate in the Pasvalys district in 1931, she lives in Vilnius. She studied graphic art at the Moscow Institute of Printing in 1960, and has illustrated children’s books since 1957. She has been a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union since 1961, and participated in art exhibitions since 1962. Her children’s book illustrations have been shown in Lithuania, Russia and Estonia, at the Bratislava Children’s Book Illustration Biennial in 1967, and at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 1968 and 1969. She has illustrated 16 books by Lithuanian writers. In the 1960s, she was considered an innovative artist.
Leonavičius, BroniusBorn in Vištytis in 1933, he lives in Vilnius. He graduated from the Kaunas School for Applied Arts in 1959. Between 1961 and 1969 he worked as an artist for Banga, the first fashion magazine, and later as a senior artist for Vaga, Mokslas and Vyturys publishers. He initiated and organised Vilnius book art triennials. In 1985, he improved his skills at the Internationale Jugendbibliothek children’s library in Munich. At the end of the 1980s, he became involved in activities
which makes him a prized artist with all publishers. He is the most accomplished contemporary Lithuanian children’s book illustrator on an international level.
Katilius, Emanuelis Izaijas Born in Kaunas in 1926, where he died in 1997. He received a diploma in graphic art from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1964. The same year, he began to take part in art exhibitions, creating posters and works of applied graphic art, and illustrated books (two of his children’s books were clearly influenced by modern Polish graphic art of the 1960s).
Každailienė, TeodoraBorn in 1944, she studied scenography at the Lithuanian State Art Institute. When she married the artist Arvydas Každailis, she gave up her studies and devoted herself to bringing up their children. (The book illustrator Indrė Agnė Každailytė is her daughter.) She worked sporadically, illustrating books and making filmstrips, taking an interest in innovations in art and pop art. Her illustrations for the 1970 book Kur ūkia laivai by Romualdas Lankauskas are a typical example of pop art stylistics. She was involved in anti-Soviet activities and belonged to the dissident Lithuanian Freedom League. Her political activities were an obstacle to participating in official art life. In the 1980s, she left for the USA, and currently lives in Chicago.
Každailis, Arvydas Born in Baisiogala in 1939, he now lives in Vilnius (he is the father of the illustrator Indrė Agnė Každailytė). He studied graphic art at the Lithuanian State Art Institute, graduating in 1962. He worked as an art teacher at the Vilnius M. K. Čiurlionis Art School between 1965 and 1989, painting decorative panels, op-art compositions and murals. Since the 1980s, Každailis has followed classical traditions, employing realistic means of expression. He is also interested in historical subjects, and tries to promote the national cultural heritage (he won the Lithuanian National Prize for his historical artworks in 2002). He is a member of the Lithuanian Heraldry Commission. Každailis has illustrated 18 children’s books since 1960; and since 1977, he has taken part in book illustrators’ exhibitions.
Kepežinskas, Rimvydas Born in Kaunas in 1956, he lives in Vilnius. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1980 with a diploma in graphic art. He has taught as a professor at Vilnius Academy of Art since 1993, and is a member
of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union and the Association for Graphic Design. He has participated in exhibitions since 1979. Kepežinskas makes engravings and is known for his fine calligraphy. He illustrates children’s books, and collaborates with publishers at home and abroad (Vaga, Vyturys, Kronta, Michael Neugebauer Press, Grimm Press). He has won several Lithuanian prizes for his illustrations. In 2006 he won the Lithuanian National Prize for all his work. He won a Unicef prize at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna (1992), and a prize at the Biennial of European Book Illustrators in Aki in Japan (2001). Little children and mothers love his fine drawings of cats and dogs.
Kisarauskas, VincasBorn in the village of Augmenai in the Radviliškis district in 1934, he died in New York in 1988. He studied painting at the Lithuanian State Art Institute, graduating with a diploma in 1959. From 1965, he worked as an art teacher at the Vilnius M.K. Čiurlionis Art School, painted pictures, made medals and assemblages, designed theatre sets, and wrote books and articles on art. He is considered one of the most distinguished members of the movement called Silent Modernism in Lithuania. He was criticised publicly for his illustrations to the poems by the poet Julius Janonis Poklius tykoja kasdieną (Poklius Lurks Every Day). Since then, the only children’s book he illustrated has been linked to the rise of the National Modernism revolution in Soviet Lithuania.
Klišiūtė, NijolėBorn in 1929, she is a theatre and film artist. She graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1955 with a diploma in set design. She worked mostly in cinema as a costume and set designer for films by Lithuanian directors. She collaborated with Vaga and Vyturys publishers from 1961, illustrating school textbooks and making drawings for children’s colouring books.
Kosciuška, VaclovasBorn in the town of Gerainiai in present-day Belarus in 1911, he died in Vilnius in 1984. He studied at Kaunas Art School in 1935. On receiving a grant from the Ministry of Defence, he trained in Paris from 1937 to 1940, improving his skills at painting battle scenes. At the same time, he made several compositions for allegorical battle scenes for the Kaunas War Museum. He worked as a teacher in schools in Vilnius, at the Lithuanian State Art Institute and at Vilnius University. His work includes paintings, theatre sets, costumes, posters, book covers, illustrations
for the renewal of cultural policy. From 1987 to 1992 he headed the Lithuanian Artists’ Union, and in 1995 he was one of the founders of the Centre for the Graphic Arts in Vilnius. He designs mostly books for adults and academic publications, and has illustrated seven children’s books. In 1971 he received a bronze medal for his illustrations to Kazys Jakubėnas’ collection of poems Abėcėlė (The Alphabet) at the Leipzig Book Art Exhibition. His son Šarūnas is a graphic artist who works mostly on children’s books.
Makūnaitė, AlbinaBorn in the village of Padainupis in the Kaunas district in 1926, she died in Vilnius in 2001. She graduated from the Kaunas Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts in 1950. She made engravings, designed book covers and made illustrations. Between 1948 and 1998, she illustrated about 50 children’s books, most of them by Lithuanian writers. At the end of the 1950s, she was one of the most famous children’s book illustrators. Aldona Liobytė’s 1959 book Saulės vaduotojas (The Sun’s Liberator), based on a Lithuanian fairy tale, came out in 11 editions, in Lithuanian, Georgian, English, Russian, Spanish, Farsi and Swahili. The artist’s illustrations for the book were shown in the Soviet pavilion at the 31st Venice Biennial. Makūnaitė was awarded a gold medal for the design of the folk tale collection Gulbė karaliaus pati (The Swan Wife of the King) at the Moscow Book Fair in 1963. She won a diploma at the Leipzig Book Fair in 1965. Makūnaitė is considered one of the most distinguished representatives of National Modernism, which opposed Socialist Realism.
Naginskaitė, IevaBorn in Vilnius in 1921 into the family of the writer and pedagogue Stasys Naginskas, she graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1949, and the next year began to take part in exhibitions. She is a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union. She has painted pictures, made engravings and designed postcards, and designed and illustrated books. She illustrated children’s books between 1955 and 1960. Before giving up children’s books, in 1961 she made one of the first Lithuanian interactive children’s books Ką padarė žirklės (What the Scissors Did).
Paškauskaitė, Lili JaninaBorn in Vilnius in 1925, she graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1951 with a diploma in graphic art. Between 1950 and 1979 she illustrated
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Art School, and a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union since 1959. In 1964, together with Birutė Žilytė and Laimutis Ločeris, he painted the murals for the Nykštukas children’s cafe in Vilnius. From 1969 to 1972, together with Birutė Žilytė, he painted murals for the Pušelė children’s sanatorium in Valkininkai. In 1963, he was widely acclaimed as one of the most distinguished Lithuanian children’s book illustrators. That year, Kazys Boruta’s book Jurgio Paketurio klajonės (The Wanderings of Jurgis Paketuris), illustrated by Steponavičius, was published. He soon won recognition outside Lithuania: in 1965 his illustrations for the Lithuanian children’s poet Kostas Kubilinskas’ book Varlė karalienė (The Frog Queen) won him a gold medal at the Leipzig Book Fair, and the Golden Apple at the Bratislava Children’s Book Illustrators’ Biennial in 1967. In 1968, Steponavičius was the first artist from Soviet Lithuania to be invited to improve his skills at the Munich Internationale Jugendbibliothek. In 1989, he won a prize in Lithuania’s Most Beautiful Book Competition, and the Ivan Fiodorov Diploma at the Moscow Book Competition for his illustrations to the book Nemuno šalies pasakos (Tales from the Land of the Nemunas) by the Lithuanian writer Petras Cvirka. This masterpiece was almost ten years in the making: in 1990, the book earned him the National Prize. The influence Steponavičius has had on the revival of book illustration in Lithuania in the 1960s has not yet been fully studied.
Surgailienė, AspazijaBorn in Tauragė in 1928, she lives in Vilnius. She gained a diploma in graphic art from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1958. She has illustrated children’s books since 1960. Her illustrations for Kostas Kubilinskas’ 1960 poem for children “Untulis ir mėnulis” about outer space showed new tendencies in the field of children’s book illustration. In 1961, she won a bronze medal at the Moscow Exhibition of Economic Achievements for her collection of small books Pasakų skrynelė (The Chest of Fairy Tales). In the late 1960s, her individual style, based on stylised folk art, became more apparent. She has illustrated about 70 books, most of them folk tales or literary versions of them.
Tarabilda, ArūnasBorn in Kaunas in 1934, he died in Vilnius in 1969. He was the son of the well-known book illustrator Domicelė Tarabildienė. He gained a diploma in graphic art from the Lithuanian Art Institute in 1958. He made engravings, and designed ex libris, postcards, posters, theatre sets, costumes and books. He illustrated children’s
nine children’s books. She made her illustrations using her favourite etching and drypoint techniques. She makes mostly portraits of her contemporaries (especially scientists) and landscapes of the country around Vilnius.
Petrikaitė-Tulienė, KonstancijaBorn in Moscow in 1906, she died in Kaunas in 1999. She left Kaunas Art School in 1934. She was active in several fields of applied art: she designed decorative ceramic plates and vases, made ceramic figurines, designed posters, created ex libris, and drew illustrations for children’s magazines and books. Her first major work was illustrating the Lithuanian writer Stepas Zobarskas’ 1938 fairy tale Brolių ieškotoja (Looking for the Brothers). In Soviet Lithuania, she illustrated 25 children’s books up to 1960. Her ability to draw very detailed images which succeed in conveying mood was highly praised. Her illustrations of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella (1951 and 1957) are among her best works. In 1958 she created the didactic picture book Mano dienelė (My Day), about the everyday life of a child in the Soviet Union. She was awarded a medal in 1960 at the Moscow Exhibition of Economic Achievements for her drawings for Elena Binkauskienė’s book Namų ruoša (Housekeeping).
Repšys, PetrasBorn in Šiauliai in 1942, he lives in Vilnius. He studied graphic art at the Lithuanian State Art Institute. Expelled from the institute on ideological grounds in 1963, he worked for the Institute of Geology, but returned in 1964. He held various jobs: from 1967 to 1968 he was an artist at Vaga publishers, from 1967 to 1971 an engineer in a factory of electric welding apparatuses, in 1971 and 1972 an artist at Vilnius University Theatre, in 1972 he taught at Vilnius Children’s Four-Year Art School, and from 1989 to 2008 he was a professor at Vilnius Art Academy. Repšys makes series of engravings, medals and figurative bas-reliefs on themes from Lithuanian history. He received the State Prize in 1985 for the mural The Seasons (1974–1985) in the Department of Baltic Languages of Vilnius University. In 1997 he was awarded the National Prize. Repšys is one of the most acclaimed artists of the older generation in Lithuania. He has illustrated and designed books by Lithuanian poets. His illustrations for the 1970 book of poems Užmigę žirgeliai (Little Sleeping Horses) by Sigitas Geda and the 1971 folk tale Našlaitė Elenytė ir Joniukas aviniukas (Elenytė the Orphan and Joniukas the Little Lamb) are original interpretations in a Baroque style.
Rozinienė, GalinaBorn in Russia in 1925, she graduated from the Ilya Repin Art Institute in St Petersburg in 1956, after which she lived and worked in Vilnius. She made illustrations for the children’s magazine Genys. In 1970 and 1971 she illustrated three children’s books. She emigrated to Israel together with her husband, the graphic artist Samuel Rozin.
Skliutauskaitė, AdasaBorn in Kaunas in 1931, she lives in Vilnius. She graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1955 with a diploma in graphic art, and started to exhibit work in 1958. Her oeuvre includes graphic work, filmstrips and puppets. She has designed and illustrated about 40 children’s books. She drew illustrations for the children’s magazines Genys and Žvaigždutė (The Little Star), and collaborated with the children’s magazine Vesiolyje kartinki (Merry Little Pictures) which was published in Moscow. She is popular with children, as most of her illustrations are lively and convincing, portraying the lives of children and their relations with grown-ups.
Skromanas, KastytisBorn in Kaunas in 1943, he now lives in Grybauliai in the Varėna district. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1966 with a diploma in graphic art. He has painted pictures and created sculptures, but his main activity is book design: he has illustrated and designed over 500 books, 12 of them children’s books. In the 1960s he successfully combined drawing with photography in illustrating children’s books, thus expanding the range of means of expression used by Lithuanian artists. In illustrating the 1970 book Senio pasakos (An Old Man’s Tales) by Pranas Mašiotas, a classic 20th-century Lithuanian children’s writer, he employed the style of animated puppet films, which was a ground-breaking move in Lithuania at that time.
Steponavičius, AlgirdasBorn in Kaunas in 1927, he died in Vilnius in 1996. His father was a well-known printer and publisher, his wife Birutė Žilytė is a graphic artist and book illustrator, and his daughter Daina is also a graphic artist. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1950 with a diploma in graphic art. In 1954, he began to make illustrations for the children’s magazine Genys, and from 1957 he illustrated children’s books (the estimated number is 11 books). He was a teacher at the Vilnius M. K. Čiurlionis
books from 1960, eight out of his ten publications are popular science and educational publications. Tarabilda employed innovative means of expression: he made pictures from page-proofs, and combined drawing and photography. He was considered an innovator in the art of children’s book illustration.
Tarabildienė, DomicelėBorn in the town of Andrioniškis in the Anykščiai district in 1912, she died in Vilnius in 1985. She graduated in sculpture at Kaunas Art School in 1935. While still a student, she took an interest in photography and created photomontages. Between 1937 and 1939 she studied graphic art and sculpture at the Higher School of Decorative Arts in Paris. She illustrated about 70 books children’s books between 1934 and 1975, and collaborated with publishers in Lithuania, Moscow, Kiev, Riga and Tallinn. She won many different prizes and awards: in 1939, she won the State Prize for her illustrations to the folk collection Šimtas liaudies baladžių (A Hundred Folk Ballads), edited by Jonas Balys, which made her famous as a classic of the national school of graphic art. From the point of view of the present day, her most interesting drawings are those that were ideologically engaged, and her attempts at modernism in the 1960s.
Ušinskaitė, FilomenaBorn in Pakruojis in 1921, she died in Kaunas in 2003. She was the sister of Stasys Ušinskas, a painter who worked in applied graphic art and book illustration, one of the most distinguished representatives of Art Deco in Lithuania. She studied stained glass and theatre design at the Kaunas Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts, graduating in 1943. Her oeuvre includes paintings, stained glass and glassware. She illustrated children’s books in the immediate postwar years (1947–1950) in the Art Deco style.
Valius, VytautasBorn in Telšiai in 1930, he died in Vilnius in 2004. He was the husband of Sigutė Valiuvienė, a graphic artist and children’s book illustrator. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1956. He painted easel pictures and murals, and made engravings. He illustrated children’s books between 1956 and 1974, and drew pictures for the children’s magazine Genys. His most valued works are those that he made in the mid-1960s, when he was searching for a modern national style
174 175 Children’s Book Illustration and the Stagnation Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
Valiuvienė, SigutėBorn in Šiauliai in 1931, Valiuvienė is now based in Vilnius. She was married to the graphic artist and children’s book illustrator Vytautas Valius. Valiuvienė graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1956, specialising in graphic art. She makes fine prints, and designs and illustrates books, mainly children’s books (20 in all). She used to contribute illustrations to the children’s magazine Genys. Valiuvienė has established herself as an innovative artist in the early 1960s, and was persecuted by Soviet censorship after publishing her semi-abstract illustrations for Antanas Vienuolis’ legend The Curse-Laden Monks.
Vasilenkaitė-Vainilaitienė, Zosė (Sofija)Born in the Šilutė district in 1928, she lives in Vilnius. She graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1957, where she studied textiles. She makes textiles and book illustrations, mostly for children’s books. Between 1967 and 2004 she illustrated over 20 books, and received diplomas and medals in Lithuania and the Soviet Union. Her illustrations from the 1960s demonstrate the possibility of combining folk art traditions and the influence of pop art, which are linked to the revival of art.
Vildžiūnas, VladasBorn in the village of Dabužiai in the Anykščiai district in 1932, he lives in Vilnius. His wife is Marija Ladigaitė-Vildžiūnienė, a graphic artist and book illustrator. He studied sculpture at the Lithuanian State Art Institute, graduating in 1961. He is known as a sculptor and a reformer of art. He worked in children’s book illustration episodically: between 1962 and 1964 he illustrated three books. His illustrations for the Lithuanian folk song Virė virė košę (The Porridge is Boiling) appear very innovative in the context of today.
Žilytė, BirutėBorn in the village of Nainiškiai in the Panevėžys district in 1930, she lives in Vilnius. She is the wife of Algirdas Steponavičius, the graphic artist and children’s book illustrator, and mother of Daina Steponavičiūtė, a graphic artist. She studied graphic art at the Lithuanian State Art Institute, graduating in 1956. She worked as an art teacher at the Vilnius M.K. Čiurlionis Art school from 1963 to 1987, and also made engravings. In 1964, together with Algirdas Steponavičius and Laimutis Ločeris, she painted murals for the Nykštukas children’s cafe in Vilnius. From 1969 to 1972, together with Steponavičius, she decorated the Pušelė children’s
sanatorium in Valkininkai with murals. She made her first illustrations for children’s books in 1957; her own original style, combining elements of folk and pop art, evolved around 1964 (the illustrations to Mykolas Sluckis’ children’s book Nedėkingas ančiukas (The Ungrateful Duckling) and to the tales Užburtos birbynės (The Enchanted Pipes) by Sonė Tomarienė). Žilytė has been considered an innovator since 1967, when the children’s book by the Latvian classic Janis Rainis Aukso sietelis (The Little Golden Sieve) with her illustrations was published. In 1969, she was awarded the Golden Apple for the book at the Bratislava Children’s Book Illustrations Biennial. In 1971, she won the gold medal at the Leipzig Book Fair for her illustrations to Pasaka apie narsią Vilniaus mergelę ir galvažudį Žaliabarzdį (A Fairy Tale about the Brave Girl from Vilnius and Greenbeard the Killer) by the Lithuanian writer Aldona Liobytė. For this book and Pabėgusi dainelė (The Little Song that Ran Away) by Liobytė, which was published in 1966, she was awarded the State Prize of Soviet Lithuania. In 1976, her illustrations to Kostas Kubilinskas’ Stovi pasakų namelis (A Little Fairy-Tale House) earned her the Hans Christian Andersen Diploma of Honour at the IBBY 25th Congress. She has illustrated (on her own and together with Steponavičius) 14 books. In 2010, she held her first personal exhibition at the Lithuanian National Gallery.
Žilius, VladislovasBorn in the Šilalė district in 1939. He graduated from the Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1964. Between 1965 and 1969 he worked for Vaga publishers, and between 1970 and 1973 for Mintis publishers as chief artist. He has illustrated and designed books for adults and children, and designed theatre and film sets and costumes. At the end of the 1960s, he developed an interest in abstract art and Pop Art, employing the their principles in his easel paintings, which he could not exhibit publicly because of Soviet censorship, and in his children’s book illustrations. Two children’s books came out with his illustrations in 1972 and 1973. In 1975, he applied to emigrate to Israel, where his wife’s relatives lived, and because of this he was expelled from the Artists’ Union, losing the chance to take part publicly in artistic life. In 1976, he wrote a letter to the first secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party, expressing his wish to leave for the West, and after that he was allowed to emigrate, and left for the USA. He is currently based in New York. In 1993, he held a solo exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Vilnius.
Lithuania Guest of Honour in Bologna 2011
I l l u s t r a r I u mSoviet Lithuanian Children’s Book IllustrationCurators Giedrė Jankevičiūtė and Jolita Liškevičienė
Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio, Bologna, 30 March – 11 April 2011
Catalogue edited by Giedrė Jankevičūtė Texts by Giedrė Jankevičiūtė and Jolita Liškevičienė Translation and editing by Rasa Drazdauskienė, Irena Jomantienė, Joseph EverattGraphic design by Gedas Čiuželis and Jokūbas Jacovskis
Design and layout by Inter Se, Lithuania www.interse.lt
Printed in Lithuania by www.kopa.eu
Published by the International Cultural Programme Centre, Lithuania www.koperator.lt | www.lituania-bologna.eu
Supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania
A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s
Lithuanian Central State Archive Lithuanian Literature and Art Archive Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania
Cover: New Year’s Eve in Vilnius. 1966. Photography by Algimantas Kunčius © International Cultural Programme Centre, 2011 The reproduction of this catalogue, even in part, in any form or media is prohibited without written consent of the copyright holder Circulation: 1500
Back cover: New Year’s Eve in Vilnius. 1966. Photography by Algimantas Kunčius© International Cultural Programme Centre, 2011The reproduction of this catalogue, even in part, in any form or media is prohibited without written consent of the copyright holderCirculation: 1500