Květa Pacovská (born 1928)

Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern

(The Little Match Girl)
Text: Hans Christian Andersen
Transl. from Danish into German by Britta Coordes
Kiel: Michael Neugebauer Edition, 2005
[14] fol., felt pen, crayon, charcoal, collages, partly black background
29,5 x 24 cm, col. pictorial cardboard covers, dust jacket

The book and its history

With this book Květa Pacovská continues the illustrative work of her early years, but with a completely new approach. As in the following four volumes of this series, she seeks to translate the classic fairy-tale narrative into individual, often double-page spread images in a free, associative manner. The text, it seems, merely serves as a starting point for the pictorial interpretation. The few pages of text give way to Pacovská's unique concept of colour and form with full-page pictures of great emotional intensity. One can literally feel the poverty of the girl in the picture showing two large, bare feet, drawn in white on a black background. The child's hunger, coldness, and loneliness stand out against a large house façade, hatched with black charcoal; small, silver rectangles suggest windows behind which people are kept cozy and warm. Narrow white stripes with red strokes can be interpreted as matches, whose flames provide brief moments of warmth for the child.
This touching double page is immediately followed by a black tableau with a dining table and oversized cutlery. Next are brighter pictures, silver with colourful stripes, and a red page with the profile of the grandmother the girl dreamed of, a friendly moon face, and once again colourful match shapes. The fairy tale ends with the death of the girl. But Kveta Pacovská closes with a page-filling, abstracted face full of coloured pencil stripes, reminiscent of the warming colours in the child's dream.
By separating the few text pages from the dominating picture pages, Pacovská encourages an associative interpretation of the pictures, which leads to a deeper appreciation of the fairy tale's levels of meaning.

Biographical note

Květa Pacovská, born 1928 in Prague, lives and works in her city of origin. She practices conceptual art in painting, graphic design, and sculpture and is considered an exceptional artist in the field of art and books. She has gained worldwide fame with her experimental picture object books, which she considers to be a kind of paper sculpture.

 After studying at the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design, she began illustrating fairy tales and children's books as early as the 1950s. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, new opportunities opened up for her book-artistic work. She gained access to the coated papers and cardboard for picture books that were commonly used in the West. Her first new project "One, five, many", 1990, is also her first object book for children and marked a milestone in the creative development of the then 62-year-old artist.

In addition to free works, including large-format oil paintings, collages, objects made of cardboard, paper, strings, wood or metal, she designs numerous book projects as a new form of interactive object book. Květa Pacovská sees her book-artistic works as a kind of three-dimensional paper architecture that one can enter into in order to experience them with all senses. "My picture books are an interplay of different ways of reading. They each set free a different perception of space, rhythm, touch, or colour." And: "My art is by no means based on the understanding to interpret or illustrate texts. Rather, I work on the basis of the visual arts." (Maximum Contrast, p. 148)
Pacovká's works have been widely exhibited, including at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, 2007, and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt/M., 2008. Her most important award is the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, 1992, one of the most prestigious international prizes for children's and young people's books, which the international children's book organisation IBBY awards every two years.
About the ArtistPictureBook, Pacovská says: "The picture book is the first gallery that children enter".



The Art of Květa Pacovská
Gossau-Zürich, Michael Neugebauer, 1993


Květa Pacovská, Open Space

Paris: Fondation M. von Cronenbold
Wabern: Benteli, 2001


Květa Pacovská, Maximum Contrast
Eva Lienhart (Hrsg.)
Katalog zur Ausstellung im Museum für Angewandte Kunst. Frankfurt/M., Bargteheide: Michael Neugebauer, 2008

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