Rudolf Lukeš: Politics and Pop-Up books

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Rudolf Lukeš’ life and career are surely some of the most eventful to befall an illustrator of children’s books, yet his story is almost unknown these days. This month, our Scribblers imprint is publishing translated versions of an animal-themed pop-up book series he created, and we thought this was a perfect time to introduce our blog readers to an artist who, by most measures, was a bit of a legend.

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Born in Prague in 1923, where he went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rudolf Lukeš’ first graduate job was as a set designer for the movie productions mounted at Barrandov film studios, where many of the most respected directors of the day plied their trade.

But what followed Lukeš’ meteoric rise echoed Orson Welles’ self-assessment of having started at the top and worked his way to the bottom: When the Communist Party seized control of his home country, Lukeš refused to join up. His political dissent, coupled with his father-in-law’s work for the American army, tarnished him in the eyes of the authorities, and he was blacklisted, losing his position in the film industry.

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Rather than leave the country of his birth, where he lived with his family, Lukeš decided instead to channel his artistic talents into a different field where he would not be thwarted by state interference. He began to conceive and illustrate children’s picture books. Soon, his bold, vibrant and distinctive style attracted international attention, and his books were sold throughout Europe and beyond. Stardom beckoned, and Lukeš was even invited to London by Queen Elizabeth II, although Lukeš’ political status meant that his books were never published in his own country.

Lukeš’ story is as good an example as any of the triumph of the artistic spirit over censorship. We hope that our English-language publication of some of his books will help to remind people of his extraordinary life and work.

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You can purchase the pop-up book series via the following links:

Lion & Friends Pop-Up Book: via our website, Amazon and Wordery.

Dog & Friends: via our website, Amazon and Wordery.

Tiger & Friends: via our website, Amazon and Wordery.

Tortoise & Friends: via our website, Amazon and Wordery.