In the world of children’s literature, “The Snow Queen” stands out as a classic tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption. But the story of how this fairy tale came to be is just as captivating. My previous post showing this fairytale illustrated by genius Vladislav Yerko also explored the unlikely connection between the Snow Queen and opera, and how unrequited love and rejection may have inspired Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s greatest storyteller, to write this enduring story.
This post is showcasing the Russian version of “The Snow Queen,” published by Ripol Classic in 2014 and features a retelling by the renowned Russian writer Sofia Prokofieva. While Prokofieva’s talent is undeniable and her retelling holds some literary merit, I found the abridging in this version too drastic for my taste and the story’s flow somewhat flawed. However, the stunning illustrations by Pavel Tatarnikov have earned this book a place in my home library.
Tatarnikov is a talented Belarusian artist who was born in Brest in 1971 and raised in a family of artists. As a child, he seemed dissatisfied with the illustrations in the books at home and would often “improve” them by adding his own drawings in the margins. His parents encouraged this kind of creativity, which may have led young Pavel to his career as an illustrator.
In 1989, he graduated from the Arts college, and in 1995 completed the graphics course at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts. One of Tatarnikov’s first notable projects was illustrating the book “Аповесць мінулых гадоў” (“The Tale of Years Gone By”), which received the prestigious “Golden Pen of Belgrade” award at the International Biennale of Illustrations in 1999.
Tatarnikov has received numerous other awards and accolades for his work, including the “Golden Apple” award at the International Biennale of Illustrations in Bratislava in 2001 and 2009, as well as multiple wins at the “Image of the Book” illustration competition in Moscow. Tatarnikov’s illustrations can be found in books published around the world, including for literary classics by Shakespeare, Dumas, Stevenson, and the Grimm brothers, and many others.
He has worked on an illustrated reconstruction of Belarusian towns and castles for the book “Where We Come From”. Currently he also teaches art as an associate professor of the graphic department at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts.
Tatarnikov’s watercolour technique is unique and visually striking. His illustrations for “The Snow Queen” transport the reader to an otherworldly realm while capturing the emotions of the story in a palpable way. I particularly admire this artist’s use of white to create a sense of space, vastness and emptiness and to render everything from shimmering frost to snow-covered woods, the fluff of the Snow Queen’s attire, the sparkle of ice and the magic mirror. The snow drifts swirling behind the Snow Queen’s sled create a sense of chill in the air and the sound of howling wind. Tatarnikov’s empty spaces form shapes, these shapes in turn create forms, all connected by the use of white to create a spellbinding Winterland.
Take a look at the illustrations below and see if they have the same mesmerising effect on you.
Below are few further images zooming in on Pavel Tatarnikov’s unique technique. These atmospheric illustrations completely immerse the viewer into the story whilst conveying the drama and the emotions of the characters which feel real.