“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading” said Maurice Sendak. I couldn’t agree more. This line explains the basis of my, now years’ old, fascination with illustration art, which has subsequently progressed to collecting original art published in some of my favourite illustrated books.
It started years ago when I decided to put together a home library for my son and began researching what books were worth having on our shelves. The research has been on-going ever since and made a simple interest grow into a passion. But it stopped being just about a library for my child the day I’ve found myself in possession of five versions of the “Fairy Tales” by Alexandr Pushkin, each illustrated by a different Russian artist. At that stage I had no intention of keeping more than one edition of the same book and was grappling with the question of which one of the five Pushkin books should be left in our home library. The answer did not take long to reveal itself. It felt only fair and reasonable that all five stay, so unique and fantastic was the visual interpretation of the same literary texts by each of artists in question. And so my research focus started shifting from just the book-to-have to book art and artists who applied themselves to illustrating particular texts.
The next phase followed, that of collecting original children’s book illustrations. With some help from my friends the collection that I’ve started years ago has now grown to over 50 artworks and includes illustrations by some of the best loved Australian and Russian illustrators. We are currently looking into acquiring more works by illustrators from Russia, Moldova, Germany and China. The illustrations from outside Australia, which find their way into this collection reflect our Russian heritage and ties with the cultural environments of our extended families and friends around the world.
Researching and collecting led me to also explore the place of book illustration in contemporary hierarchy of arts and its historically marginalised position relative to “major arts” such as painting and sculpture. However, books illustration art is the most accessible art form for young children and can delight and inspire in so many different ways and from a very young age. I wish illustration art was given permanent space on the walls of major galleries in the ‘contemporary art’ space.