A work visit to the International Youth Library in 2016 changed the way I thought of children’s books completely. It was an exhibition of works by Dutch and Flamish illustrators. I don’t know under which stone I had been hiding until that moment, I’m afraid I had never really thought about the topic, but seeing those artworks made me realize for the first time how much amazing work of art is need to fill a book with illustrations. There were original oil on canvas, watercolors, pencil drawings, lithographs and more in that exhibition. Since then, I’ve been following some great contemporary illustrators, especially from the Netherlands and Flanders. I’ll add some links to their Instagram accounts below. Also, I began to dive into all those great artists from the Golden Age of Illustration, a period from roughly the 1880’s till the 1920’s that in which book and magazine illustration excelled. Advances in printing technology permitted accurate and high quality reproduction of art, at much lower cost than before.
This was the time of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Warwick Goble, Ivan Bilibin, Kay Nielsen, Kate Greenaway and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, just to name a few, artists that are still admired today and have influenced many later artists. I’ll never get tired looking at their images of fairies and wonderlands! I need to mention Anton Pieck, Rien Poortvliet and Rie Cramer from the Netherlands, too. Today, I have filled an entire shelf with books that I just bought for their illustrations.
Check out these amazing Dutch and Belgian artists:
I read 47 books with a total of 18,812 pages. 11 of those books were in Dutch, 30 in German and 6 in English language. 8 books were works of nonfiction, the rest were novels or collections of short stories.
I started reading some of the Russian classics in this year: Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov and of course Dostoevsky (I already read a Tolstoy years ago, not to worry). My favorite book of this year in reading was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough - I just love chunky family histories set in the past! The biggest disappointment for me was The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I loved The Goldfinch, which I read a couple of weeks earlier, so had high hopes for her most celebrated novel, but it didn't do it for me. I was happy to finally read a beautifully illustrated edition of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, which had been on my shelf ever since winning it after a biology contest back in high school. The choices for books were rather random: titles that spoke to me in the library, books that had been sitting on my shelves for years, recommendations by friends as well as a couple of classics from the Story Lines Reading list. Here’s an overview in chronological order of my reading.
BOOKS read in 2019:
1. Geert Mak – Verleden van Nederland (2009)
2. Multatuli - Max Havelaar (1860)
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald – Tender is the Night (1934)
4. Fyodor Dostoyevski – The Brothers Karamasov (1879)
5. Niklas Natt och Dag – 1793 (2017)