This exhibition seeks to illustrate a few prominent Soviet
book illustrators’ interpretation of Western European fairy tales in the
Gamborg Gallery collection.
Soviet-born Russian illustrators’ graphic interpretation of European fairy tales tend to be more baroque than many traditional Western European illustrators’ interpretations, which is possibly due to the grandeur of Russian Tsars’ court and the cult of aesthetics inherent to the Russian culture as a whole from time immemorial.
It is this fairy-tale atmosphere what French choreographer Marius Petipa rescues when staging the three grand Tchaikovsky’s ballets - The Sleeping Beauty, the Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Thus, performing arts such as theater and ballet are all-present in Soviet time illustrations of European fairy tales conferring them a depth and a complexity which at times make these illustrations as appealing to adults as to children who get acquainted with these stories for the first time.
The most prominent artist featured in this exhibition is Nika Golts (born 1927) who has been all her life working as a fairy tale illustrator. Nika’s art is wise, serious, and at the same time full of little tricks and jokes only visible to the observant reader. Her colour palette is mostly pastel and delicate and she avoids bold colour contrasts. The artist uses frequently lace and textile-like textures to evoke an ambience of mystery and remoteness (see her illustrations to Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty or Andersen’s The Swineherd). Nika Golts strikes a deal with the author where, while following the story closely, she would allow herself to interpret the characters through her own aesthetics. Nika Golts is a precise magician of colour and line. The careful rendering of architectural elements and a classical composition are permanent features of her drawings for Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Oscar Wilde tales. In recent illustrations, Nika often uses brown and grey paper as the foundation for her works which adds a special smoothness to the scenes while conferring an old time magic to the graphic world of the tale. Her outstanding illustrations for H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales made her a nominee for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen award granted to illustrators by the Danish Ministry of Culture on occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the world famous Danish storyteller’s birth in 2005.
Galina Dmitrieva (born 1929) graduated from the Surikov Institute in Moscow as a poster artist, but she followed her natural interest for the world of theatre, myths, and fairy tales and became a full-time children books illustrator. She made illustrations for over a hundred books. This exhibition includes her illustrations to compilations of Italian and French fairy tales, Cinderella, the Puss-In-Boots and Hoffmann’s fairy tales. Also included is a series of illustrations to the Nutcracker and the Mouse King where we can see the best of Galina Dmitrieva’s technique, her unparallel fantasy and her bold use of colour and contrast. Her beloved techniques were gouache and watercolour, but she also excelled in lithography. Dmitrieva used the Russian lubok as a permanent source of inspiration for her art which is noticeable in the outer contour line she includes in illustrations and in the theatre-like, plumy, rounded nature of the characters. The area of her pictures is most often fully covered with colour and the human figure is ever present, even when in the shape of dolls inhabiting the illustrated stories’ scenes.
Galina Shubina (1902-1980), Russian avant-garde graphic artist who later specialised in posters, experimented as well with the world of European fairy tale during her early period. She made a few outstanding drawings of Pinocchio, the Italian fairy tale by Carlo Collodi we have included in this exhibition.
Marina Uspenskaya (1927-2007) was particularly well-known for her illustrations for classic Russian fairy tales, such as “Ruslan and Lyudmila”, “The Silver Hoof” and “Snegurochka”. In spite of this, she did make a wonderful interpretation of Andersen’s fairy tales (“The Emperor’s New Suit”, "The Princess and the Pea", “Thumbelina” and others) in 1954 and thus we are including a series of her drawings for this compilation.