- Illustrarium: Soviet Lithuanian Children's Book Illustration, and: Illustrarium: Contemporary Lithuanian Children's Book Illustration, and: Illustrarium: Illustration by Young Lithuanian Artists, and: Illustrarium: Twenty Books from Lithuania for Children and Teenagers, and: Illustrarium: The Best Lithuanian Books for Children 2000-2010
Lithuania, guest of honor of the 2011 Bologna Children's Book Fair, made a lasting impression with three exhibitions on the art of Lithuanian children's book illustration: two featuring contemporary illustrators and one documenting Lithuanian illustration under Soviet rule. The three accompanying catalogues were complemented by two further volumes on the current literary production in children's literature. Collectively, the five books not only preserve impressions gained from the exhibitions, but also provide a deeper insight into Lithuanian children's literature from 1945 to the present.
The volume on Lithuanian illustration during the Soviet regime, edited by Giedrė Jankevičiutė, serves as point of departure and defines the analytical approach of the Illustarium-quintet. It highlights the close relationship between ideological hegemony and individual artistic creation in Soviet Lithuania while granting a nuanced overview of Lithuanian children's book illustration. [End Page 72]
In four chronologically ordered sections, book annotations, illustrations, and photos reveal the ambiguity of the artistic aesthetics between 1945 and 1990. On the one hand, Lithuanian children's book illustration reflects everyday life in a communist country and the Soviet artistic doctrine of Socialist Realism. On the other hand, the seemingly innocent and consequently less policed genre allowed for aesthetic experiments that not only amalgamate Western influences, but also strive to preserve the national Lithuanian artistic traditions and identity. The first section on the Stalin era shows, for example, how stylistic elements of the pre-war period (Avant garde) continued to coexist alongside the emerging propagandistic Socialist Realism.
The central chapter on the children's book illustration of the sixties and early seventies testifies to the diversification of the artistic domain. While on one level, typical Soviet symbols (pioneers, red stars) and Cold-War concepts take hold, on another, this period marks the highpoint of Lithuanian folk art, drawing on myth and fairy tale subjects. The stylistic archaism of illustrations by Albina Makūnaitė, Birutė Žilytė, and Algirdas Steponavičius modernizes Lithuanian children's book illustration by force of primitivistic color purism. Apart from the neo-folklore, the aesthetic renewal becomes apparent in techniques that surreptitiously introduce Western stylistics - such as Pop art - into socialist realism.
This "golden age" was followed - as the third section of the catalogue shows - by a phase of disillusionment and aesthetic skepticism during the Brezhnev-era which drove artists like Stasys Eidrigevičius into exile. In the 1980s, Perestroika gradually led to the erosion of the official Soviet artistic doctrine, preparing the ground for leading contemporary illustrators such as Keştutis Kasparivičius and Leonardas Gutauskas. The tome, which closes with an index of artist names and biographies, adds a new perspective on the little-known domain of Soviet-Lithuanian illustration by including artists' statements about their memories of the books of their childhood.
Contemporary Lithuanian Children's Book Illustration and Illustration by Young Lithuanian Artists take this history into the present. Both present contemporary Lithuanian illustrators with a short biography, a list of works, and four to ten illustrations each. The first volume presents artists who started publishing in the eighties (i.e. Kasparavičius, Gutauskas) and those whose career began under the difficult circumstances immediately after Lithuanian independence (e.g. Marius Jonutis...