- Carll CneutIllustrator–Belgium
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A pastry chef, an architect, a circus artist—Carll Cneut had big dreams when growing up in a small village in the western outskirts of Belgium. Later on, he studied graphic design at the Sint-Lucas Institute in Ghent, and merely by accident, he became an illustrator.
While an unerring sense of color was already present in his very early work, Cneut soon proved to be a master at creating eccentric and extremely effective compositions. Later on, his characters' body language became an integral component of the story, as shown in O Monster eet me niet op (Monster don't eat me, 2006). This illustrator also has a fine eye and ear for the rhythm of the story. Sometimes he supports and emphasizes the rhythm, but when the narrative calls for it, he goes against it, creating an interesting and sometimes unsettling friction that forces the reader to reflect and contemplate the story more deeply.
When asked about the main influences on his artistic work, Cneut often refers to Belgian expressionist painters Van de Woestyne, Ensor, and Tytgat, but he is also influenced by earlier artists. The stunning way Cneut's fabric falls and folds reminds the reader of Flemish Primitives like Van Eyck, and Dulle Griet (Mad Meg, 2005) is a tribute to Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
With his typical, unmistakable painting style, Carll Cneut has become well known in the last twenty years, both at home and abroad. His ability to present universal emotions and themes, supported by a rich artistic palette and impressive narrative skills, might very well lie at the heart of his international appeal. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have received many prestigious prizes. At first glance, however, this success does not seem inevitable. Cneut's characters are not the cuddly types, for example, the spoiled princess in De Gouden Kooi (The Golden Cage, 2014). His often abstract style demands an attentive viewer, with imagination and empathy, and stimulates one's creativity.
In 2014–2015, the inspiring exhibition In My Head took place in Ghent, Cneut's hometown. The exhibition offered people an insight into his world, his oeuvre, and his daily life from childhood up to today. For six months, the illustrator set up a copy of his atelier in St. Peter's Abbey, as a part of the exhibition, where he worked in public. The exhibition was an overwhelming success: 50,000 people visited the exposition and dropped by in his atelier to see how Cneut works, have a chat, and get their books signed.
Cneut is a craftsman with a passion for the book as an object and an obsession for drawing and painting. Thanks to his natural ability to interpret a story, Carll Cneut taps into the deepest narrative layers with seeming ease and even playfulness. This talent allows him to address a very diverse audience on many levels without ever losing his artistic integrity. [End Page 43]