by Vojtech Kubasta and published by Bancroft & Co, London, 1962 and Artia in Prague, 1963. This pop-up children’s book showed what Czech children imagined to be an American camp featuring Native Americans, or as Czechs called them, Indians.
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I cherish the beautiful art in The Day of the Bison Hunt and bring your attention to the wonderful work of pop-up master, Czech illustrator Vojtěch Kubašta.
The book itself is a very simple story and features only a few pages, but the grand surprise is the pop-up at the end.
Who needs words when your imagination could ignite for hours looking at the wonderful nooks and crannies of this centerpiece which unfolds into a double page pop-up of a Plains Indian camp. Kubasta certainly was a master at crafting pop-up books.
The grand pop-up scene (wait for it…) includes tepees, a totem pole, a mounted chief, and Native Americans at their daily work.
But first, the story…
I remember when pop-up books would inspire hours of play. It was like a personal spectacular theater on the tabletop and I would bring out dolls, add props, create cut out actors to engage in the ‘set’, and so on. It makes me nostalgic for the children of today who escape into virtual reality or sit with their faces glued to a flat screen.
About the Artist
Vojtěch Kubašta (1914 – 1992) was a Czech architect and artist. He was born in Vienna but his family moved to Prague when he was four years old and he lived there his entire life. He demonstrated his artistic talent at the age of four. He had a great desire to become an artist. His father, however, had different goals for his son. He wanted him to study law.
Nevertheless, the young Vojtěch persisted with his aspiration to become an artist and, eventually, his father agreed that his son could become an architect. The study of architecture, at that time, was considered more of an artistic undertaking than a technical discipline. Some of the great Czech master painters, graphic artists, and illustrators were lecturing at the Polytech University in Prague. Kubašta graduated with a degree in architecture and civil engineering in 1938. His career as a professional architect was short. From the early 1940s, he worked as a commercial artist, and also as a book designer. His illustrations became increasingly popular.
When the communist government nationalised the entire publishing industry in 1948, Kubašta had to search for new venues to market his artistic talent. He was involved in designing advertising materials for Czechoslovak products abroad. He created three-dimensional cards that advertised porcelain, sewing machines, pencils, Pilsner beer, sunglasses, and other products.
Every Christmas season, he designed and illustrated a new crèche in which he captured the Czech traditional Christmas setting. In 1956, he designed his first fairy tale pop-up book: Little Red Riding Hood. Kubašta offered this pop-up book to the Prague-based ARTIA publishing house for publication. ARTIA was a state-owned foreign trade corporation. In 1962, his illustrations were featured in Once Long Ago, a book of 70 fairy tales from around the world.
During the years that followed, Vojtěch Kubašta’s three-dimensional books made him the publishing house’s best-known book designer and illustrator. His pop-up books have been published in 24 different languages and over 35 million copies have been sold. Today, original editions of his illustrations and books are sought after by collectors from around the world.
His books have also been featured on Martha Stewart Living and CBS News Sunday Morning.
Kubašta’s first sole retrospective exhibition in North America was organized by the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in February 2005. During a recent exhibition of pop-ups and movable books in Chicago in September 2006, Columbia College devoted its entire gallery to Vojtěch Kubašta’s art. The city of Prague sponsored an exhibition of his work in December, 2006.
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