The cover image of this landscape-format picture book arouses curiosity. An elderly, bald-headed gentleman is sitting on a small mound, a notebook on his raised left knee, a pencil in his right hand. A billy goat is looking over his shoulder, standing on his hindlegs and holding on to the trunk of an apple tree. The billy goat bares its teeth laughing, an apple is about to hit the hairless head of the writer. The title "billy goat in a mock coat" adds to the confusion, since the man is dressed in a plaid frock coat. The rear side, however, shows the billy goat upright in human posture, wearing the checkered coat.
So the viewers already have to do some thinking before they open the book. Then the puzzling continues. The cheerful nonsense verses on the left page faces a picture page with a wide range of motifs. We meet the contrite crouched scapegoat or the bodybuilder mouse Atze, whom a small cat greets submissively. Also amusing is the barely identifiable mouse animal next to the verse "Happy is he who forgets what simply cannot be remembered."
Pfüller's whimsical imagery liberates itself from all that is expected. With seemingly naive cheerfulness and calculating subtlety, Pfüller always makes the viewers take a closer look and follow their own train of thought. In addition, he captivates them with subtle, broken colors on matte paper, a generous composition, and outline drawings of the caricature-like figures. A children's book? Wrong question. An introduction to lateral thinking, to the labyrinth of free associations sparked by text and image for people of all ages.
Volker Pfüller, born in Leipzig in 1939, died 2020 in Rudolstadt, is one of the best-known East German graphic designers and poster artists. He has made a name for himself as a stage and costume designer for German and international theaters as well as an illustrator.
After studying at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin-Weissensee, he began working as an illustrator in 1965, producing numerous children's books. Ever since, Pfüller worked as a freelance graphic designer and stage designer. After various working as a lecturer, he taught as a professor at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts from 1997 to 2005. His theater posters have won many awards, as Pfüller had a unique way of visualizing both the essence of the play and the spirit of the staging. He describes himself as a passionate reader and draftsman. In 2019, the Stuttgart State Opera presented Rossini's "Il Babiere die Siviglia" with stage designs and costumes by Volker Pfüller. In the same year, he was awarded the lifetime achievement award of the German Youth Literature Prize "Gesamtwerk Illustration".
Ingeborg Ruthe: Von Saurierhunden und Theater
in: Berliner Zeitung, 16.6.2009