The hope to educate

The special section, intended to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the exhibition, features six artists, one female illustrator and five male illustrators; each present with two works from the archives of the Casa della Fantasia, a place of memory and affection.

Let’s begin with Květa Pacovská, not out of chivalrous courtesy, but out of necessity. Her way of understanding art and childhood, summed up in the famous statement “A picture book is the first art gallery a child visits”, allows us to enter the history of the International Exhibition of Illustration.

Květa Pacovská (Prague, 1928), exhibited in Sarmede continuously from 1987 to 1999, testifies with her publishing production to the possibility of pure creativity, high in values and aesthetics, daughter of the avant-garde, designed for them, the children.

That time of illustration, i.e. the second half of the 20th century – in which the hope of educating tolerance and understanding and through beauty – was strong.

From the rubble of war come extraordinary experiences, capable of inspiring entire generations. The idea of the illustrated book as a guardian of children’s rights is one of the possible paths to follow in the special section.

Illustrator David McKee’s little elephant Elmer declares the inestimable value of the right for diversity. Accompanied by Pinocchio, the elephant seems to want to remind us, always with lightness and irony, of the need for acceptance and imagination. David McKee (Tavistok, UK, 1935 – France, 2022), on show from 1984 until 2010, although not continuously, was Guest of honour in 1998.

Emanuele Luzzati (Genoa, 1921 – 2007) also participated in the exhibition for the first time in 1984, continued for nine editions until 2003.

His Pulcinella, hovering above an elephant, reaffirms the right to dream: Pulcinella dreams of being the main character in plays, of flying and reaching for the moon, he dreams of fantastic nights and perhaps of freedom.

Jindra Čapek (České Budějovice, Czech Republic, 1953) participated twenty-two times in the Sarmede Exhibition, from 1983 to 2018, and in 2002 as guest of honour. Author of a dream world, heir to the refined miniature tradition, he tells stories of knights, dragons, monsters.

Józef Wilkoń (Bogucice, Poland, 1930) also chooses the path of fantasy and poetry, he builds an oasis, made of colour and matter, to welcome the marvellous creatures observed in nature. Twice guest of honour, in 1999 and 2018, he was present at the Exhibition every year from 1983 to 2004, then in 2008, and 2013.

Our journey ideally ends with ‘A Dream in Venice’ by Štěpán Zavřel (Prague, 1932 – Sarmede, 1999), founder of the International Illustration Exhibition that we celebrate here.

If Květa Pacovská opened the extraordinary doors of the illustrated book for us, Štěpán Zavřel built the idea of a child-friendly educational community in Sarmede.

Silvia Paccassoni


Illustration by Štěpán Zavřel, Un sogno a Venezia, Bohem Press, 2013