Authors: Anna Boguszewska, Tomasz Broda, Małgorzata Cackowska, Aleksandra Cieślak, Jacek Friedrich, Elżbieta Jamróz-Stolarska, Krystyna Rybicka, Piotr Rypson, Anita Wincencjusz-Patyna, Jakub Woynarowski, Michał Zając
Captains of Illustration: 100 Years of Children’s Books from Poland is an A-Z anthology dedicated to the legacies of illustrators whose careers spanned the century between the nation’s regaining of its independence in 1918 up through 2018. Given that this timeframe essentially covers the breadth of the modern history of Polish illustration for children, it would have been an impossible challenge to take a detailed and systematic look at each aspect of the artists’ collective oeuvre in a single publication. And so, the idea came about to consider the achievements of Polish illustrators through 100 keywords that cover topics ranging from the playful to the downright serious.
A team of eleven experts in the field of illustration – historians, researchers, artists – came together to flesh out each theme and share the most interesting highlights and anecdotes of the period through the works of Polish illustrators. All 100 keywords have been arranged alphabetically, covering an omnifarious array of aspects related to illustration, particularly the subjects and stories that artists brought to life, yet also the methods and techniques they employed, along with the trends and stylistic inspirations that motivated them. This approach was complemented by a dedicated effort to highlight the most vibrant personalities and publications in the genre, along with other meaningful threads that have woven through their works over all 100 years.
The starting point and the essence which lies at the heart of the anthology was, of course, the illustrations. Each author chose between several to over a dozen illustrations to accompany each alphabetical entry. Ultimately, there came to be close to 840 works by 230 illustrators featured in the book, composing a rich visual panorama of Polish illustration through the years. The text accompanying each entry is varied in its subject, scope and style – depending on the topics covered in the keyword and each particular author’s own style. The idea was to embrace as much diversity of perspective as we could, so as to paint the most dynamic picture of what Polish illustration has offered the world over an entire century. Granted, each author was compelled to make subjective choices about what they would talk about in the fairly small space dedicated to each entry. Hence, the fruits of their efforts meander through vital tropes in a way that strays off the beaten path, giving way to unexpected discoveries of their own, rather than merely following a systematic timeline running through the history of illustration. In many cases, a certain theme would spark the mention of a particular illustrator, forging a link that may not necessarily have been included in a monographic publication dedicated to their life and works.
And so, this rich compendium of facts and fables related to the history of Polish illustration for children is characteristically anecdotal and subjective. In some cases, the influence of certain artists is indisputable, and we’ve striven to represent their work accordingly. There are, of course, certain cases in which it was impossible to do so due to licensing issues or other hiccups related to negotiations with the estates of certain artists. We also took care to maintain a fitting proportion between the historical achievements of Poland’s illustrators and those of today. In a most natural way, the body of illustration in the years after 1956 ultimately stands out among all others, as this period marked a peak in the local children’s publishing industry. Each entry is its own tumble down a different rabbit hole that runs through a particular keyword, but for readers who want to set each illustration within its appropriate historical context, there is a biographical appendix at the end of the book, along with a timeline of major events related to the history of Polish illustration.
Each illustration is also accompanied by a caption that details the artist and the year of its publication in a first edition. Books which have not (yet) officially been published in an English-language edition have an independent translation of the title in square brackets. Books which have come out in a foreign edition have the official English-language title printed in italics and set in round brackets. Furthermore, English-language editions of Polish books that feature their original illustrations are marked with an asterisk.