National Museum features 'pop-up book' exhibit by artist Lucie Seifertova


Some listeners will already be familiar with the work of Czech artist Lucie Seifertova, the author and illustrator of several successful children's pop-up books in Czech and English. Her books include Magical Prague and last year's Children's Book of the Year: A History of the Brave Czech Nation. The success and popularity of her "history" - a massive single-volume comic - eventually led to a new exhibition now underway at the National Museum. There you can experience writ large the small joys and miseries of cartoon characters who wind their ways through the labyrinths of time.

Lucie Seifertova, photo: CTK
It will no doubt be a hit among children - especially those who already know the book. An elderly lady and her grandsons marvel at the exploits of little cartoon men and women running around in the long distant past. Thus begins Lucie Seifertova's - and the National Museum's - venture into 35, 000 years of history, eventually culminating in the story of the Czechs lands. The exhibit features large blow-ups from parts of Ms Seifertova's book: 2 metres tall, 70 metres in length, naturally impressive for kids. Combined with real historic objects on display, children can get - on a large scale - what are perhaps their very first insights into important historic events.

"I like it," one four-year-old boy says, "I like it a lot". And his brother agrees.

Ms Seifertova's drawing style is playful and her affection for little people caught up in history is endearing. Of particular interest is her take on the events of 1989 - the fall of communism - and the present day. One of her giant pop-ups shows Prague's most famous avant garde landmarks - the Dancing House. But, the fate of ordinary people is never far away - in this case a beggar shown at the foot of the building on the street. Ms Seifertova says she enjoys drawing figures most, with spark and lots of humour, but also with sympathy for their fates.

"I like drawing people most of all: it gives me great satisfaction when I can draw a funny face and expression. But, because I studied painting, and not illustration, I had to drop all elements of caricature for a time, and also grew to appreciate architecture and perspective, trying to depict the essence of objects. I try to combine a little bit of that with the illustrations I do now."

Pop-up books and comics have a tradition in the Czech Republic but Ms Seifertova's immense history is different: events spill across the whole page - they are not presented in boxed windows. In this sense her work at times approaches traditional illustration, though it remains anchored in the comics tradition through ever-present dialogue bubbles floating above characters' heads.

The exhibit A History of the Brave Czech Nation continues at the National Museum until December 31st.