In 1932, the Academia publishing house, founded ten years earlier in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg), published a small editorial masterpiece: a splendid collection of seven illustrated stories about animals. They are short, intense stories (sometimes less than a page), conceived for children, so as to endow them—at their first contact with reading, with ‘letters’—with the idea that the reality of the world is poetry, nothing but solid poetry.
The author of the stories, taken from the Russian Books for Reading, is Leo Tolstoy. The illustrations are woodcuts by another great artist, Vladimir Favorsky: two pinnacles of Russian art and thought.
The limpid and profound words of Tolstoy become images in the illustrations of one of the greatest wood engravers. Multi-faceted artist and art theoretician, Favorsky was the rector, from 1923 to 1926, of the legendary Vkhutemas (ВХУТЕМАС, acronym for Высшие ХУдожественно-ТЕхнические МАСтерски), the Higher Art and Technical Studios, created in Moscow in 1920.
The best artists of the time (including the philosopher P.A Florensky) taught in this training institution. During Favorsky’s rectorship, in an extremely lively and fruitful atmosphere, the Vkhutemas produced highly innovative artistic and didactic programmes, similar in many respects, albeit independent, to what was developed, during the same period, at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany.
The Beatrix project has decided to gather and develop this extraordinary artistic and cultural heritage, beginning with short, poetic stories for children.