Mozaika explores a spectacular archive of Lithuanian children’s book illustration, and its cultural significance

“Looking at those illustrations,” adds Miglė, “I feel those artists didn’t pander to adults nor kids. Their aims weren’t for the illustrations to be formalist or vainly decorative. Children were treated as clever individuals who could understand and be exposed to high artistic expressions.” In this way, Mozaika highlights both a thematic and stylistic maturity rarely seen for the children’s demographic. Stasys Eidrigevičius, for example, is praised by art historians for a singular modernist aesthetic where he conveys unmistakably sad and lonely ideas. A master of rare genres such as masks and the Polish smutki (Stasys has been living in Warsaw since 1980) the famed illustrator’s work can be seen across institutions in Lithuania and Poland not to mention The British Museum, MoMA and Tokyo’s Creation Gallery, just to name a few.
Childhood memories quickly merged with a professional approach and a mother’s experience and so, Mozaika was borne. A mini digital archive which preserves works from that time, raising the ageing illustrators’ profiles and showcasing the distinct qualities of Lithuanian artistry to the masses. The collection also highlights olde Lithuanian words which are no longer in use and face obsolescence today, in turn, passing on their meaning to younger generations.
Mozaika, in turn, is a tribute to 27 artists and illustrators operating in this period. Founded by Miglė Rudaitytė, who also runs the Vilnius-based creative studio Boy, the designer started the web-based archive a little over a year ago while foraging through the contents of her parents’ country house in the Lithuanian countryside. She tells us, “many country houses become family archives that preserve various objects from unusable cupboards to bedsheets and kids’ stuff left for future generations.” In Miglė’s case, it bore a myriad of children’s books which were of interest again as a mother to three-year-old Jonas. “While looking at the books as an adult,” she recalls, “I rediscovered the beauty of Lithuanian illustrators’ work,” and its cultural significance.
There is little exposure on this eclectic range of works, a collection which is as stylistically broad as Balkan history is complex. Prior to the invention of the internet it was more difficult for illustrations to circulate. But the biggest factor contributing to this secret of Lithuanian children’s illustration lies in the country’s historical context. Looking to the second half of the 20th century, we see Lithuania occupied by the Soviet Union like much of the Eastern Bloc. Artists were strictly supervised by regimes who restricted creative freedom of expression in light of nationalistic agendas and propaganda. This meant Lithuanian artists had to find another, more covert way of unleashing their artistry, a space many found in children’s illustration – one supposedly void of politics.

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