National Museum of Romanian Literature – 5 – 16 October

RSR & GDR – Illustrations, layout and print  

Exhibition of illustrated books, the majority for children, created by leading Romanian and East German graphic artists from the 1960s to the 1980s.  A selection from the Herbert Gruenwald collection with additional examples from the Graphicfront archive.  

Project Coordinator/ Carla Duschka

It was only natural during this period for there to be collaboration on publishing projects between Romania and East Germany, both of whom were “friendly nations” within the former communist bloc. The existence of relations between different artists’ unions allowed for a great number of professional exchanges. 

It is notable how, despite the ideological straitjacket, the lack of freedom, the fact that all new titles had to pass through the filter of absurd censorship, the creativity and sophistication of the illustrators from this period were able to overcome the constraints imposed by the socialist realist style, with drawing, technical and visual solutions predominating. 

In fact, this is the main purpose of this exhibition: to showcase the exceptional quality of the drawings and compositions, the force, elegance and humour, often with surreal touches, combined with technical mastery and a coherent layout and conception of an entire book.  

These qualities afforded works from the “east” a solid status and clear identity, placing them on a par with the book design to come out of the free world, from the other side of the Iron Curtain. 

“In communist Romania, for the first time, there existed not only a coherent development of book graphics, in the sense of modern book design, but also a wealth of creative individuals.
Certainly it is a paradox that a political system based on total control of artistic creation and ideological uniformity allowed the emergence of a genuine tradition of stylistic diversity and even ludic experimentation in book art.” (H. Gruenwald, in See what we do! Pioneer Press, 2013)

These books and illustrations demonstrate to us what is probably the perfect combination of maturity, playful spirit and technical accuracy – in some cases achieving a level synonymous with benchmark, exemplary book design that it is important to acknowledge and understand, regardless of the different directions in which children’s illustration and book design are developing today.

The exhibition includes works by Josef Hegenbarth, Werner Klemke, Florica and Marcela Cordescu, Klaus Ensikat, Eugen Taru, Eva-Johanna Rubin, Geta Brătescu, Val Munteanu, Done Stan, Mircia Dumitrescu, Silviu Băiaș and more.

National Museum of the Romanian Literature

Bucharest, Nicolae Crețulescu 8
Tue – Sun, 10 am – 6 pm

National Museum of Romanian Literature