Down the rabbit hole: Josef Lada, costumes and Czech fairy tale movies

I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes while browsing online. It starts off with me searching for a song, a recipe, a moment in history – you name it. Then, a connected thread in something I’m researching will take me down a tangential path, and that might lead yet to another, and suddenly several hours have gone by. I will have about 30 different tabs open in a browser and, usually, will discover some new thing for me to find fascinating. For a long while I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog, in between recipe posts, and that’s when I realized that if the trip down the rabbit hole is fun and interesting to me, maybe there will be at least one or two other people who’ll enjoy it. So here we are. Today, I’d love for you to dive into the world of Czech fairy tale movies with me, kicked off by the artist Josef Lada.

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Some of you might know about Josef Lada, a self-taught Czech artist with a distinct style. He isn’t terribly well known outside of Europe, but is influential enough to have had a Google doodle done for him on his 124th birthday and even has an asteroid named after him! Lada’s work is both satirical, since he honed his style as a caricaturist, and idyllic, most noticeable in his folklore illustrations and seasonal paintings.

Mikeš the Tomcat

Mikeš the Tomcat

Lada is well known for illustrating The Good Soldier Svejkby Jaroslav Hašek, and I’ve been hunting for an English translation of Lada’s illustrated book about Mikeš, a traveling black tomcat. (I don’t even know if such a translation exists.) 50 Watts, a must-follow blog on all things illustration/book design, has two image posts of Lada’s pieces for you to enjoy.

Beyond his paintings and children’s books, Lada also had his hand in film, both directly and indirectly. When I was growing up, there were a lot of Czech and Slovak films and TV series that were being shown in theaters and on TV in the USSR, dubbed in Russian. A while back, I found a forum where people would post plot summaries of movies they couldn’t name. In one thread, I stumbled onto a discussion of a childhood film I’ve been trying to recall for a while: a Czech movie about a little girl and her brother who are transported to a magical picture land by touching an ink blot in a book. The movie turned out to be Kaňka do pohádky (Inkblot in the Fairytale, 1981) and the book portal in question was a volume of stories illustrated by Josef Lada. Read the rest of this entry »