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Homage to Colors in Picture Books


The Original French Version Here


A history of the picture book told through color remains to be written. So much so that, from its origins, color has played a fundamental role in the development of this publishing format, whether it be in the extraordinary factory of the printer Edmund Evans, out of which comes experimentation with chromoxylography magnified by Walter Crane, but also in France, with the collection of picture books "Trim" which started to appear in the 1860s, and whose color was meant to be a strong commercial argument in face of the competitor Hetzel. Thereafter, color and picture book have worked together in a singular manner at all the major stages of the evolution of the picture book: link between children's books and artist's books at the beginning of the century, including Macao et Cosmage by Edy Legrand or My Cat by Nathalie Parain (1919 and 1930 respectively, both of them with the N.R.F.) have become spirited records thanks to their republication (at Circonflexe et MeMo); explosion of chromatic codes with Pierre L'ébouriffé (Claude Lapointe, 1971) and the application of principles of the New York graphic studio Push Pin; bold contrasts and previously unseen colors with the emergence of computer tools, of which the publications of Rouergue (starting in 1993) have offered the first manifestations; then a return to fundamentals of pure color with Paul Cox or Blexbolex in the 2000s.

In this context, one should of course underline the role of counterpoint played by all the books that have appeared in black and white,  and also bear in mind that for each of these evolutions, the contribution of black - what would the yellow or blue tinted areas of Trois Brigands be without their black background? – as well as white - which today prevails in all publications working particularly on color - are essential in bringing out the chromatic range.

Nowadays, color revels, at the heart of a production that expresses itself in this lively, shifting, nearly kaleidoscopic demonstration of possible chromaticism, obviously influenced by recent evolutions in computer software programs that facilitate amazingly the application of tinted areas, the choice of bold contrasts or subtle hues, which are no longer elaborated by the illustrator but by the color chart of ©Illustrator. Today there is a kind of jubilation of color. Perhaps, in a few decades, we will look back at contemporary productions with the same tender gaze that we now direct towards works of the 1970s: a period of wild audacity, of ruffled, even unbridled experimenting.

For these evolutions lead creators to pursue their research in all directions, as well as offering them infinite space for expression, yet to be unraveled, including first rustic forms of chromatic creation. Today it can be unsettling to see alongside each other books for which color has remained virtual until press release, from the screen of the creator to that of the printer, and others, object books entirely realized in silkscreen printing, that are still exclusively the result of an approach of the eye and of the hand.

Kveta Pacovska, the "magician of colors" whose red, so dense and so powerful, symbol itself of his graphic identity, makes publishers sweat when it comes to ensuring perfection for each production, reminds us that a book is "the first museum that a child visits". Color contributes in a decisive way to this space of freedom in which each child constructs his or her own culture and emotion, drawing on multiple resources for creativity and the development of imagination.

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