Asya Pavlovska’s
Fairy Tales

A lot of wonderful things were happening in the Yakutovych’s small and poor apartment in Kudriavska Street in Kyiv. It saw the creation of key easel engravings and the illustration of the best books at the time; it gathered the most interesting people of the city discussing the topical issues of the art; finally it witnessed the planning of new films and exhibitions. There was another marvellous thing hiding in the background: the birth of Asya Pavlovska’s numerous fairy tales. Oleksandra Pavlovska was born into a family of intellectuals in Kyiv in 1928. She entered the Kyiv Art Institute and studied with Heorhiy Yakutovych in the same group. From then on, their creative interests moved in the same direction: Asya together with her husband wandered in the Carpathians, joined different art practices and stayed in the circle of people with progressive views. Pavlovska focused her own potential on designing children’s books: this field saw a new uplift in the USSR since the end of the 1950s. Today, viewing the books with Asya’s illustrations from different years, one may see how the fairy tale’s image changed through decades.

In the Soviet Union, the book graphic design was between two poles which may be characterized as “ensemble” and “exhibitory.” The former was started by the representatives of the avant-garde movement in the 1920s as well as by the cult graphic artist Vladimir Favorsky. They saw a book as an integral organism where a text and its design must be harmonious and interdependent. In the 1930s-1950s, book designers diverged from such a principle – instead they created independent pictures that did not have a strictly defined place in a book, and it was convenient to exhibit them individually. Such bitty nature of book illustration, however, received a lot of criticism, especially from young painters – so in the late 1950s the ensemble edition and Favorsky’s theoretical base regained popularity. This trend had prevailed over a decade, and it was during this time that the painter Asya Pavlovska was most fruitful in her creative work.

Like all waves, the ensemble presentation exhausted itself at a certain stage and raised numerous questions before artists, with the uniformity of published books being the main issue. Already in the 1980s, book designers went back to the illustration as an autonomous unit.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Alexander Pushkin’s The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish, 1978

“What do these things need to come to life? Perhaps, be with a child in one space, play with them and, maybe, it is the motionlessness of these things that makes them especially lively in child’s imagination.”

Vladimir Favorsky

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Asya Pavlovska’s style was rather sensible to the changing tendencies in art. It is especially interesting to observe this using the example of the book Kyrylo the Tanner which was published twice 16 years apart: in 1958 after Asya’s graduation and in 1974. The scenes are the same, and the structure of both books is almost identical. However, the stylistics and the design approach transformed radically

In the first edition, the representation method is realistic, somewhat romantic, imitating the pictorial techniques. Each chapter is adorned with extensive headpieces and tailpieces. The second edition is much more laconic: colours are more transparent, headpieces and tailpieces are pretty small and sometimes absent. The images look iconic and decorative. In fact, it is not only Asya Pavlovska’s individual search: these two books demonstrate the transition from the “ensemble” nature of editions of the 1950s to the “exhibitory” one of the 1970s.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Kyrylo the Tanner, 1958

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov was one of Heorhiy Yakutovych’s and Asya Pavlovska’s closest friends – they maintained personal and creative relations all their life. Mai Miturich left behind not only a plenty of designed books, but also numerous disciples and followers of his ideas. Many visual finds of the artist who mainly worked with children’s books were immediately reacted to and followed. Thus, in 1970, Mai designed Gennadiy Snegiriov’s Stories for Children, where he applied a rather unusual original technique: the fragmentariness of elements combined with the naturalness of their texture. A year later, in 1971, Asya Pavlovska was inspired by this conception.

Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister was illustrated by Pavlovska under the influence of Miturich-Khlebnikov’s images. The accurate lines of leaves, trees and mountains are interrupted by fairy characters of animals and birds, create the impression of a collage or a children’s game where you need to put together separate pieces into one picture. However, Asya in her book clearly understands and portrays a completely different geographic space of the tale, because while Mai rendered the atmosphere of Northern Russia, “Chuhaister” lived in the Carpathians. And it may be worth reminding how crucial the Hutsul mountains were for the Yakutovych where they spent a big part of the year.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister, 1971

A bright and unusual artistic form of a picture for children often hides the desire to solely interest a child: as if excessive colouring and unrealistic animals are the only thing that can engage and excite. As a matter of fact, the possibility to play with the “children’s” form is also an advantage for an artist. First of all, it is a way of speaking more expressively, studying the very essence of the form and colour or the anthropomorphic nature of characters. Secondly, in the 1960s-1980s, the children’s illustration was an experiment with the basic features of avant-gardism, impressionism or surrealism – everything could be justified by “children’s” vision.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

The history of children’s book illustration is not that long if you compare it with that of book illustration in general. The reason for this is that the understanding of childhood that we have today was formed relatively recently: three hundred years ago, there was no need in a separate branch of the book graphic art. Children were considered to be “little grown-ups,” so they had to consume the same stuff their parents consumed.

The situation changed dramatically in the ХІХ and ХХ centuries. Childhood was not just a separate element in literature anymore, its processing was sometimes seen as even more important than that of “adult” genres.

The first artistic tendencies in the children’s book design relied on approaching the “natural,” sometimes primordial “wild” condition which was associated with the culture of childhood. Illustrators often depicted horrific or violent scenes – the emotion was more important than the moral. The beginning of the ХХ century brought some corrections: now the pictures had to not only excite the curiosity, but also educate and carry ethical norms.

Searching for the balance between the attractiveness of illustrative books for children and their ethics became a pressing issue since then. The person who engaged in it had to be not just an artist – they had to be a teacher as well. This approach merged naturally with Asya Pavlovska’s life: she always combined her creative activity with teaching and pedagogy, she worked at the Kyiv State Art School and trained many generations of artists.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister, 1971

Texts for children often do not contain a detailed and thorough description of characters or places which leaves a lot of room for readers’ imagination. And no less room for an artist who must create a visual portrait out of the general atmosphere, dialogues and heroes’ actions. Painting this portrait is not just about the skill but the artist’s philosophy as well.

Asya Pavlovska’s characters do not try to play with children, be the reflection of them. The painter’s illustration is not based on the principle of an inevitable identification oneself with a hero. Her images rather send us to an absolutely different world filled with fabulousness, remoteness and unreality. The heroes most of the time are the embodiment of the general atmosphere of a narration, rather than individual figures with a strong charisma, unusual humour or temper – as it was customary, for instance, in the western school of book design.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the Nenets tale Three Sons, 1975

The technique that Asya Pavlovska proved herself to be the best at was water-colour. Bright imagery, light strokes, the possibility to convey emotions in a stormy and naïve way – all this fitted the design of children’s literature as much as possible, as it was viewed in the second half of the ХХ century in the Soviet Union. At the same time, water-colour suited childhood due to the opportunity to master its basics even at a young age. It is hard to imagine that a child is taught etching or linoleum engraving – while water-colour was a part of ordinary school classes. Thus, the technique was attractive in itself, because it was associated with the first pictures and created the impression of an artist’s entry into the world of childhood.

To escape the reality is a need for a children's artist. Some escape to the space of family and homeliness and always portray the family scenes and close relationships between heroes. Others “flee” to the childhood, to the period where everything is simpler, happier and more interesting. These artists focus on the images of children who are opposed to adults and look much better than them. Another separate genre is plunging into the world of anthropomorphic animals behaving like humans and mimicking their ways.

Although Asya Pavlovska had a go at these fields as well, escaping to the ancient past – to the history – turned out to be truly her topic. The people with its traditions and folklore was her main hero; and the epos as the foundation for the “other” world of children’s fairy tales was the major source of her texts. A reader observed the events and personalities of distant centuries.

It is notable that, during the ХХ century, the culturological and anthropologic literature popularized the idea of the identity of childhood and antiquity. The behaviour of the ancient, “traditional” peoples was considered to be very similar to that of children. Frankness, integrity of actions and words, certain irrationality, the initial stage of development – all these were seen as common features of a child and a human of the old times. This is probably one of the reasons why historical stories, legends and narrations blended so seamlessly into the canon of children’s literature.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Volodymyr Malyk’s Mykyta the Tanner, 1967

Asya Pavlovska did not moralize, although it is hard to avoid it for a children’s book artist. Children often wait for clear, unambiguous evaluations of certain situations from adults, but no less often they want the truth and honesty. Even the most fantastic or unreal characters must correlate with life, have analogues in society’s or author’s life.

On the one hand, Asya was sincere: even dealing with the least creative orders, she did not stoop to the ideological definitions of good and bad, good and evil. On the other hand, Pavlovska did not like overly bad, caricature or grotesque characters. They also deserved the viewer’s sympathy; they did not frighten with their appearance, but rather provoked compassion and disappointment.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Kyrylo the Tanner, 1958

One of the most complicated questions when it comes to children’s illustration is where is the line between a book for children and a book for adults? Because too many works of literature that initially had no age orientation whatsoever (the same fairy tales at first were not intended for the younger audience and contained a lot of violence) are now strictly classified on the shelves. The same is true for adults: we understand a lot of ideas from children’s books after reading them at a more mature age.

Such a division is actually a great way of looking at yourself from the outside for both adults and children. For the former, it is a possibility to realize the circumstances of their own life and being a part of the society; for the latter – to understand the basic principles of behaviour and be ready for the future. It is like a mirror.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the tale Magical Berries, 1968

“And children in general do not have the right of vote – adults speak for them: grandmothers, grandfathers, parents. And the painter who works for children (and the writer probably as well) is allegedly evaluated by a child, but this is what adults say. And when we are sometimes told that children do not understand something, it means that their parents do not understand it.”

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Untitled.
Original technique, 1970s

Among all artists, Asya Pavlovska’s husband, Heorhiy Yakutovych, was the one who contributed the most to the formation of her style. Throughout all his life, Heorhiy plunged into the world of epos, ancient stories, national traditions – all this was embodied in his engravings and books. When he started processing some textual monument, he could not talk about anything else, so the whole family was in the theme of a new search. Asya also worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband. It is known that Yakutovych was colour-blind, so it was hard for him to deal with colour. Heorhiy’s wife helped him with engravings that had different shades.

Asya also became interested in epic themes: a great number of her illustrations relate to the epoch of Kyivan Rus and the Middle Ages. The images of these cycles demonstrate the common vectors of the couple’s artistic search.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Sketch. Paper, ink, 1970s

As early as in the beginning of the ХХ century, avant-gardists had an idea that a children’s book must bring up a new type of a person: progressive, critical, educated. Later on, the vision of a “new human being” changed, but the belief in an utmost importance of children’s editions remained.

The most interesting and at the same time paradoxical fact is that the artists, seemingly talking to a child, very often actually spoke to other adults. Children’s literature helped establish the social and ideological norms acceptable and dominant in the society. Notionally, every children’s book had to answer the questions “what is good?” and “what is evil?”

Another important thing that a children’s book had to do was to show how the “real” adult world functioned. These are the examples of how one should communicate with different people, react to certain events. However, while many literary texts were the classics and could not relate to the modern time, the illustrations to them could almost completely change the concept and the mood of a composition.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Vladimir Favorsky was one of the most significant theorists for both the Yakutovych and the whole school of the Soviet graphic art of the 1950s-1960s. In addition to the idea that a book must be an ensemble and all its elements must be interrelated, while the text is always in a subordinated position, Favorsky also wrote about the illustration for children. His theories undoubtedly formed the basis for Asya Pavlovska’ works.

“The illustration is obviously the most important part of a children’s book, it is impossible without it. We probably should not even call the visual material of a book an illustration, as pictures are often presented in a book with a tiny or no text at all,” Favorsky stated in his book About Art, about Book, about Engraving and continued his scrupulous reflections concerning not only the illustration, but also the material and texture of a children’s book, types and decorative patterns in it.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the tale Magical Berries, 1968

“Apart from the purely subject painting, the description of objects, the thing that attracts me as an artist in any writer's works is the mood, so to say. Yes, it is probably the mood. At the same time, this approach makes me even more dependent on the author’s text, unlike in the case I weren’t looking for it. So when I had to illustrate the books where I did not feel any special order, the mood, I was just lost, I did not know what to do with it.”

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Work and creative activity were not separated for Asya Pavlovska. She took a lot of orders from different publishers, combined it with looking after her family and the house, she was also often responsible for the financial and organizational aspects of their everyday life. But at the same time, in a pretty smooth and quit rhythm, the artist systematically fulfilled her creative plans and intentions. In Asya’s case, the art becomes a constant combination with other spheres of life: family and teaching. Sometimes you may have neither time nor energy for the pure art – and then you have to struggle with yourself, look for the inspiration in the surrounding environment.

Pavlovska never claimed to be a “genius” – in their family this status always belonged to her husband, Heorhiy Yakutovych. Today there may be a different interpretation of this position, but the art climate in their creative family was considered to be balanced. Asya relieved everybody from the routine, from concerns about money and basic living conditions, while escaping to the world of children’s fairy tales, epic characters of the past, noble heroes and miserable yet not scary villains. This world could be easily overlooked against the background of greater discoveries, but it nourished the sphere of art and gave everything the vital force.

Asya Pavlovska’s
Fairy Tales

A lot of wonderful things were happening in the Yakutovych’s small and poor apartment in Kudriavska Street in Kyiv. It saw the creation of key easel engravings and the illustration of the best books at the time; it gathered the most interesting people of the city discussing the topical issues of the art; finally it witnessed the planning of new films and exhibitions. There was another marvellous thing hiding in the background: the birth of Asya Pavlovska’s numerous fairy tales. Oleksandra Pavlovska was born into a family of intellectuals in Kyiv in 1928. She entered the Kyiv Art Institute and studied with Heorhiy Yakutovych in the same group. From then on, their creative interests moved in the same direction: Asya together with her husband wandered in the Carpathians, joined different art practices and stayed in the circle of people with progressive views. Pavlovska focused her own potential on designing children’s books: this field saw a new uplift in the USSR since the end of the 1950s. Today, viewing the books with Asya’s illustrations from different years, one may see how the fairy tale’s image changed through decades.

In the Soviet Union, the book graphic design was between two poles which may be characterized as “ensemble” and “exhibitory.” The former was started by the representatives of the avant-garde movement in the 1920s as well as by the cult graphic artist Vladimir Favorsky. They saw a book as an integral organism where a text and its design must be harmonious and interdependent. In the 1930s-1950s, book designers diverged from such a principle – instead they created independent pictures that did not have a strictly defined place in a book, and it was convenient to exhibit them individually. Such bitty nature of book illustration, however, received a lot of criticism, especially from young painters – so in the late 1950s the ensemble edition and Favorsky’s theoretical base regained popularity. This trend had prevailed over a decade, and it was during this time that the painter Asya Pavlovska was most fruitful in her creative work.

Like all waves, the ensemble presentation exhausted itself at a certain stage and raised numerous questions before artists, with the uniformity of published books being the main issue. Already in the 1980s, book designers went back to the illustration as an autonomous unit.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Alexander Pushkin’s The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish, 1978

“What do these things need to come to life? Perhaps, be with a child in one space, play with them and, maybe, it is the motionlessness of these things that makes them especially lively in child’s imagination.”

Vladimir Favorsky

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Texts for children often do not contain a detailed and thorough description of characters or places which leaves a lot of room for readers’ imagination. And no less room for an artist who must create a visual portrait out of the general atmosphere, dialogues and heroes’ actions. Painting this portrait is not just about the skill but the artist’s philosophy as well.

Asya Pavlovska’s characters do not try to play with children, be the reflection of them. The painter’s illustration is not based on the principle of an inevitable identification oneself with a hero. Her images rather send us to an absolutely different world filled with fabulousness, remoteness and unreality. The heroes most of the time are the embodiment of the general atmosphere of a narration, rather than individual figures with a strong charisma, unusual humour or temper – as it was customary, for instance, in the western school of book design.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the Nenets tale Three Sons, 1975

Vladimir Favorsky was one of the most significant theorists for both the Yakutovych and the whole school of the Soviet graphic art of the 1950s-1960s. In addition to the idea that a book must be an ensemble and all its elements must be interrelated, while the text is always in a subordinated position, Favorsky also wrote about the illustration for children. His theories undoubtedly formed the basis for Asya Pavlovska’ works.

“The illustration is obviously the most important part of a children’s book, it is impossible without it. We probably should not even call the visual material of a book an illustration, as pictures are often presented in a book with a tiny or no text at all,” Favorsky stated in his book About Art, about Book, about Engraving and continued his scrupulous reflections concerning not only the illustration, but also the material and texture of a children’s book, types and decorative patterns in it.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the tale Magical Berries, 1968

Asya Pavlovska’s style was rather sensible to the changing tendencies in art. It is especially interesting to observe this using the example of the book Kyrylo the Tanner which was published twice 16 years apart: in 1958 after Asya’s graduation and in 1974. The scenes are the same, and the structure of both books is almost identical. However, the stylistics and the design approach transformed radically

In the first edition, the representation method is realistic, somewhat romantic, imitating the pictorial techniques. Each chapter is adorned with extensive headpieces and tailpieces. The second edition is much more laconic: colours are more transparent, headpieces and tailpieces are pretty small and sometimes absent. The images look iconic and decorative. In fact, it is not only Asya Pavlovska’s individual search: these two books demonstrate the transition from the “ensemble” nature of editions of the 1950s to the “exhibitory” one of the 1970s.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Kyrylo the Tanner, 1958

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov was one of Heorhiy Yakutovych’s and Asya Pavlovska’s closest friends – they maintained personal and creative relations all their life. Mai Miturich left behind not only a plenty of designed books, but also numerous disciples and followers of his ideas. Many visual finds of the artist who mainly worked with children’s books were immediately reacted to and followed. Thus, in 1970, Mai designed Gennadiy Snegiriov’s Stories for Children, where he applied a rather unusual original technique: the fragmentariness of elements combined with the naturalness of their texture. A year later, in 1971, Asya Pavlovska was inspired by this conception.

Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister was illustrated by Pavlovska under the influence of Miturich-Khlebnikov’s images. The accurate lines of leaves, trees and mountains are interrupted by fairy characters of animals and birds, create the impression of a collage or a children’s game where you need to put together separate pieces into one picture. However, Asya in her book clearly understands and portrays a completely different geographic space of the tale, because while Mai rendered the atmosphere of Northern Russia, “Chuhaister” lived in the Carpathians. And it may be worth reminding how crucial the Hutsul mountains were for the Yakutovych where they spent a big part of the year.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister, 1971

A bright and unusual artistic form of a picture for children often hides the desire to solely interest a child: as if excessive colouring and unrealistic animals are the only thing that can engage and excite. As a matter of fact, the possibility to play with the “children’s” form is also an advantage for an artist. First of all, it is a way of speaking more expressively, studying the very essence of the form and colour or the anthropomorphic nature of characters. Secondly, in the 1960s-1980s, the children’s illustration was an experiment with the basic features of avant-gardism, impressionism or surrealism – everything could be justified by “children’s” vision.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Work and creative activity were not separated for Asya Pavlovska. She took a lot of orders from different publishers, combined it with looking after her family and the house, she was also often responsible for the financial and organizational aspects of their everyday life. But at the same time, in a pretty smooth and quit rhythm, the artist systematically fulfilled her creative plans and intentions. In Asya’s case, the art becomes a constant combination with other spheres of life: family and teaching. Sometimes you may have neither time nor energy for the pure art – and then you have to struggle with yourself, look for the inspiration in the surrounding environment.

Pavlovska never claimed to be a “genius” – in their family this status always belonged to her husband, Heorhiy Yakutovych. Today there may be a different interpretation of this position, but the art climate in their creative family was considered to be balanced. Asya relieved everybody from the routine, from concerns about money and basic living conditions, while escaping to the world of children’s fairy tales, epic characters of the past, noble heroes and miserable yet not scary villains. This world could be easily overlooked against the background of greater discoveries, but it nourished the sphere of art and gave everything the vital force.

The history of children’s book illustration is not that long if you compare it with that of book illustration in general. The reason for this is that the understanding of childhood that we have today was formed relatively recently: three hundred years ago, there was no need in a separate branch of the book graphic art. Children were considered to be “little grown-ups,” so they had to consume the same stuff their parents consumed.

The situation changed dramatically in the ХІХ and ХХ centuries. Childhood was not just a separate element in literature anymore, its processing was sometimes seen as even more important than that of “adult” genres.

The first artistic tendencies in the children’s book design relied on approaching the “natural,” sometimes primordial “wild” condition which was associated with the culture of childhood. Illustrators often depicted horrific or violent scenes – the emotion was more important than the moral. The beginning of the ХХ century brought some corrections: now the pictures had to not only excite the curiosity, but also educate and carry ethical norms.

Searching for the balance between the attractiveness of illustrative books for children and their ethics became a pressing issue since then. The person who engaged in it had to be not just an artist – they had to be a teacher as well. This approach merged naturally with Asya Pavlovska’s life: she always combined her creative activity with teaching and pedagogy, she worked at the Kyiv State Art School and trained many generations of artists.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Platon Voronko’s The Tale about Chuhaister, 1971

“And children in general do not have the right of vote – adults speak for them: grandmothers, grandfathers, parents. And the painter who works for children (and the writer probably as well) is allegedly evaluated by a child, but this is what adults say. And when we are sometimes told that children do not understand something, it means that their parents do not understand it.”

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Untitled.
Original technique, 1970s

Among all artists, Asya Pavlovska’s husband, Heorhiy Yakutovych, was the one who contributed the most to the formation of her style. Throughout all his life, Heorhiy plunged into the world of epos, ancient stories, national traditions – all this was embodied in his engravings and books. When he started processing some textual monument, he could not talk about anything else, so the whole family was in the theme of a new search. Asya also worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband. It is known that Yakutovych was colour-blind, so it was hard for him to deal with colour. Heorhiy’s wife helped him with engravings that had different shades.

Asya also became interested in epic themes: a great number of her illustrations relate to the epoch of Kyivan Rus and the Middle Ages. The images of these cycles demonstrate the common vectors of the couple’s artistic search.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Sketch. Paper, ink, 1970s

As early as in the beginning of the ХХ century, avant-gardists had an idea that a children’s book must bring up a new type of a person: progressive, critical, educated. Later on, the vision of a “new human being” changed, but the belief in an utmost importance of children’s editions remained.

The most interesting and at the same time paradoxical fact is that the artists, seemingly talking to a child, very often actually spoke to other adults. Children’s literature helped establish the social and ideological norms acceptable and dominant in the society. Notionally, every children’s book had to answer the questions “what is good?” and “what is evil?”

Another important thing that a children’s book had to do was to show how the “real” adult world functioned. These are the examples of how one should communicate with different people, react to certain events. However, while many literary texts were the classics and could not relate to the modern time, the illustrations to them could almost completely change the concept and the mood of a composition.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

The technique that Asya Pavlovska proved herself to be the best at was water-colour. Bright imagery, light strokes, the possibility to convey emotions in a stormy and naïve way – all this fitted the design of children’s literature as much as possible, as it was viewed in the second half of the ХХ century in the Soviet Union. At the same time, water-colour suited childhood due to the opportunity to master its basics even at a young age. It is hard to imagine that a child is taught etching or linoleum engraving – while water-colour was a part of ordinary school classes. Thus, the technique was attractive in itself, because it was associated with the first pictures and created the impression of an artist’s entry into the world of childhood.

To escape the reality is a need for a children's artist. Some escape to the space of family and homeliness and always portray the family scenes and close relationships between heroes. Others “flee” to the childhood, to the period where everything is simpler, happier and more interesting. These artists focus on the images of children who are opposed to adults and look much better than them. Another separate genre is plunging into the world of anthropomorphic animals behaving like humans and mimicking their ways.

Although Asya Pavlovska had a go at these fields as well, escaping to the ancient past – to the history – turned out to be truly her topic. The people with its traditions and folklore was her main hero; and the epos as the foundation for the “other” world of children’s fairy tales was the major source of her texts. A reader observed the events and personalities of distant centuries.

It is notable that, during the ХХ century, the culturological and anthropologic literature popularized the idea of the identity of childhood and antiquity. The behaviour of the ancient, “traditional” peoples was considered to be very similar to that of children. Frankness, integrity of actions and words, certain irrationality, the initial stage of development – all these were seen as common features of a child and a human of the old times. This is probably one of the reasons why historical stories, legends and narrations blended so seamlessly into the canon of children’s literature.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Volodymyr Malyk’s Mykyta the Tanner, 1967

“Apart from the purely subject painting, the description of objects, the thing that attracts me as an artist in any writer's works is the mood, so to say. Yes, it is probably the mood. At the same time, this approach makes me even more dependent on the author’s text, unlike in the case I weren’t looking for it. So when I had to illustrate the books where I did not feel any special order, the mood, I was just lost, I did not know what to do with it.”

Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Pyotr Yershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, 1973

Asya Pavlovska did not moralize, although it is hard to avoid it for a children’s book artist. Children often wait for clear, unambiguous evaluations of certain situations from adults, but no less often they want the truth and honesty. Even the most fantastic or unreal characters must correlate with life, have analogues in society’s or author’s life.

On the one hand, Asya was sincere: even dealing with the least creative orders, she did not stoop to the ideological definitions of good and bad, good and evil. On the other hand, Pavlovska did not like overly bad, caricature or grotesque characters. They also deserved the viewer’s sympathy; they did not frighten with their appearance, but rather provoked compassion and disappointment.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to Kyrylo the Tanner, 1958

One of the most complicated questions when it comes to children’s illustration is where is the line between a book for children and a book for adults? Because too many works of literature that initially had no age orientation whatsoever (the same fairy tales at first were not intended for the younger audience and contained a lot of violence) are now strictly classified on the shelves. The same is true for adults: we understand a lot of ideas from children’s books after reading them at a more mature age.

Such a division is actually a great way of looking at yourself from the outside for both adults and children. For the former, it is a possibility to realize the circumstances of their own life and being a part of the society; for the latter – to understand the basic principles of behaviour and be ready for the future. It is like a mirror.

Oleksandra Pavlovska. Illustration to the tale Magical Berries, 1968

Asya Pavlovska’s
Fairy Tales

A lot of wonderful things were happening in the Yakutovych’s small and poor apartment in Kudriavska Street in Kyiv. It saw the creation of key easel engravings and the illustration of the best books at the time; it gathered the most interesting people of the city discussing the topical issues of the art; finally it witnessed the planning of new films and exhibitions. There was another marvellous thing hiding in the background: the birth of Asya Pavlovska’s numerous fairy tales. Oleksandra Pavlovska was born into a family of intellectuals in Kyiv in 1928. She entered the Kyiv Art Institute and studied with Heorhiy Yakutovych in the same group. From then on, their creative interests moved in the same direction: Asya together with her husband wandered in the Carpathians, joined different art practices and stayed in the circle of people with progressive views. Pavlovska focused her own potential on designing children’s books: this field saw a new uplift in the USSR since the end of the 1950s. Today, viewing the books with Asya’s illustrations from different years, one may see how the fairy tale’s image changed through decades.

The technique that Asya Pavlovska proved herself to be the best at was water-colour. Bright imagery, light strokes, the possibility to convey emotions in a stormy and naïve way – all this fitted the design of children’s literature as much as possible, as it was viewed in the second half of the ХХ century in the Soviet Union. At the same time, water-colour suited childhood due to the opportunity to master its basics even at a young age. It is hard to imagine that a child is taught etching or linoleum engraving – while water-colour was a part of ordinary school classes. Thus, the technique was attractive in itself, because it was associated with the first pictures and created the impression of an artist’s entry into the world of childhood.

Work and creative activity were not separated for Asya Pavlovska. She took a lot of orders from different publishers, combined it with looking after her family and the house, she was also often responsible for the financial and organizational aspects of their everyday life. But at the same time, in a pretty smooth and quit rhythm, the artist systematically fulfilled her creative plans and intentions. In Asya’s case, the art becomes a constant combination with other spheres of life: family and teaching. Sometimes you may have neither time nor energy for the pure art – and then you have to struggle with yourself, look for the inspiration in the surrounding environment.

Pavlovska never claimed to be a “genius” – in their family this status always belonged to her husband, Heorhiy Yakutovych. Today there may be a different interpretation of this position, but the art climate in their creative family was considered to be balanced. Asya relieved everybody from the routine, from concerns about money and basic living conditions, while escaping to the world of children’s fairy tales, epic characters of the past, noble heroes and miserable yet not scary villains. This world could be easily overlooked against the background of greater discoveries, but it nourished the sphere of art and gave everything the vital force.

До 12 років Дмитро Якутович займався музикою, однак потрапив з батьками в автокатастрофу та втратив слух. Після цього хлопець звернувся до живопису.