Bruno Munari (1907 - 1998)

Bruno Munari's ABC

Semplice lezione di inglese
(Simple English Lessons)
Mantua: Corraini Editore, 2003
[48] fol., watercolor
29.5 x 32 cm, pictorial cardboard covers, col.

The book follows the alphabet with English terms, supplemented by translations into Italian
OE English: Cleveland, New York: The World Publishing Company, 1960

"Keeping childhood alive for a whole lifetime means being curious to know things, wanting to communicate and understand."
The book and its history

This picture book first appeared in the USA, as did "Bruno Munari's Zoo" three years later. Munari chooses clear, simple shapes for the objects, but plays with proportions and surprising combinations. For the letter B, a blue butterfly fills almost the entire double page; in the lower right-hand corner, as if for fun, there is a small yellow banana lying in front of an open, upright book. This is one of Munari's early picture books from 1945, which was published in 1957 in the USA by the same publisher with the title "Animals for Sale".

The objects in this alphabet book are designed to be easily recognizable, but their proportions and colouring obey the overall artistic concept of the double page.

Feathers and fish resemble each other in colour, size, and shape and the flies correspond to the feathery shape of a feathery petals of the composite flower. The colour contrasts yellow-green (lemon, leaf) are as surprising as the reversed sizes of the tiny steamer and the giant stone (ship, stone). With his informational images Munari creates an imaginary space in which colours and forms, moods and feelings, the conscious and the unconscious playfully combine.

Biographical note

Bruno Munari, born in Milan in 1907, dies there in 1998. The painter, graphic designer, object artist, and theorist is one of the most influential artists and designers in Italy. He attended the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan and participated in a group exhibition of the Italian Futurists as early as 1927. In the 1930s, he turned his attention to three-dimensional structures and objects, overcoming the traditional definition of sculpture. His works focus on access to and perception of the visual world, now known as visual communication. Between 1939 and 1945 he worked as a graphic designer for the Mondadori publishing house and as art director of the magazine "Tempo". In 1948 he and others founded the group Movimento Arte Concreto (MAC) and created a series of Libri Illeggibile (Illegible Books), which, without text and conceived as objects, were first exhibited in 1950. Munari's interest in a purely visual language (including the tactile and material dimension of papers, of formats and the effect of colours) is also reflected in his picture books published after 1945. They immediately aroused great interest and were first exhibited at the New York Public Library in 1952.

Books for children take up a large part of Munari's work and remained a lifelong passion. He was interested in the possibilities of a new visual language in children's books, which tells stories with pictures and symbols, with the colour effect and materiality of paper and encourages readers to actively engage with the book and communicate. In addition to his work as an industrial designer, commercial artist, and book author and illustrator, Munari published theoretical writings on design and visual communication and led experimental workshops for children. 




Giorgio Maffei, Munari’s Books

Mantua: Corraini Edizioni 2009, engl. Edition

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