In my quest to flood you with cool Polish book illustrators (which will probably soon be widened into book illustration in general, as I’ve just picked up Children’s Books In England: Five Centuries Of Social Life by F.J Harvey [Cambridge, 1982]), this time you’ll getting some beautiful art by Olga Siemaszko [OL-gah Sye-MASH-ko], and you’re gonna love it.

Olga Siemaszko was born in 1911, died in 2000, and was not only an illustator, but also a painter and designer. Artistic soul rarely shows itself only in one way. She’s called The First Lady of Polish Illustration, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not an admirer of her works.

Her style is quite distinctive; extremely easy to recognise, bold, energetic, and full of life. For many years Olga Siemaszko illustrated several dozens of children’s books, not even once succumbing to temptation of sugar-coating the story. She was the first illustrator in Poland to abstain from drawing pink bunnies, rainbows and (metaphorical) unicorns; she went the solitary path of drawing exactly what was in the book, and making it a tad bit surreal or sometimes psychodelic. If you think that’s why Polish people are somewhat weird, you’re mistaken. That’s because of Janusz Stanny’s illustrations of Andersen tales. (Sometimes I still get nightmares; I’ll show you some of the pictures later.)

All pictures thanks to Garaz ilustracji.

So, as you can imagine, her illustrations for Alice in Wonderland aren’t very Disney-like:


Neither were those from Andersen tales:


Below is her vision of Paradise from Dante’s Divine Comedy:



Animals are one of the most prominent elements in Olga Siemaszko’s illustrations: she loved them, studies their anatomy and movement, collected zoology handbooks. Guess they came in handy (random illustrations from many Polish and Russian books below, none of them was ever translated to English, I think. If you’re interested in any of them specifically, just let me know):