Nurit Shilo-Cohen

Speaking Time and Room No.: 2006-9-23 8:30-10:30 Room I

Speaker: Nurit Shilo –Cohen(Israel)


IBBY, Macau, September 2006

The Israel Museum Award for the Illustration of a Children’s Book

Nurit Shilo –Cohen

Curator of Illustration

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Israel Museum is a big encyclopedic museum in Jerusalem, which holds collections of art, archaeology and judaica as well as a big youth wing. It serves as a national museum. The youth wing has a library for illustrated children’s books. The books in this unique library are set on the shelves alphabetically according to illustrators, and not in the traditional manner by authors. We believe that illustrators are just as important as authors. Illustrations in children’s books are many times the first works of art that children see; often they remember the visuals for years without knowing who made them.

The Israel museum has been giving a biannual award for the illustration of a children’s book since 1978. In the 28 years of its existence it was awarded 14 times, 10 illustrators received a gold medal (some of them more than once) and 41 received a silver medal as an honorable mention. A total of 74 books to date. The exhibitions of the original illustrations are held in the youth wing library.

Last year we published a comprehensive book of the recipients of the award, since its establishment “The Big Book of Illustrators”. We asked each one of the many illustrators that received it over the years to write the library a personal letter in which he or she will present themselves to the readers of the book in their own creative way, in words and illustrations. We also took their photographs in their studios.

In this short talk I chose to present a dozen of the illustrators that won the award and were presented in the book. I will show what they look like, how they present themselves and how they sneak into the books they illustrate consciously or subconsciously.

Igael Tumarkin, a well-known Israeli sculpture, illustrated a few books for his own children. On the cover of one of them he is seen from the back hand in hand with his young son.

Ora Ayal, photographed as an adult in her studio today with a picture of a cat, and seen as a child in an old photograph, she has not changed much, maybe grew a little taller, like Alice in wonderland. She depicts herself as a child in her book “Ugbo” and in the letter she wrote us for “The Big Book of Illustrators”. She writes in the letter that when she was a chilled she wanted to be a spy and later she wanted to decorate candy wrappings but in the end she became a children’s book illustrator.

Yossi Abolafia flies into the scene as a pilot in an old airplane as can be seen on the top right hand corner of an illustration in his book “The Adventures of King Ferdinand”. He draws himself as a pilot on the envelope of the letter he sent us and in the letter itself. This is what he really looks like swinging on a hammock.

Sharif Waked, an Arab artist from Haifa, looks very much like the character in his book “Child on the Steps of the World”, or is it the other way around, his character looks just like him.

Michal Bonano, always wears striped clothes. She is seen in the far corner of one of her illustrations with stripes. She draws herself with a striped shirt, in the letter she wrote us, on a notebook paper with blue lines. She writes that she likes books, likes to read books, likes bookstores and would like to write and illustrate books, which is exactly what she does.

Danny Kerman is a huge man; he looks like a good-hearted giant from a fairy tale. He fills the whole page, and almost walks out of it, as a king with medals in an illustration in the book “The Magic Cake”, I am sure Kerman was very full of himself when he made the illustration, whether he was aware of it or not.

Ruth Zarfati, depicts herself in the garden in front of her home as a young girl, this watercolor illustrates her book “As Seen from My Window”. She is photographed as an adult in her city home today, crowded with books and art materials. In her letter she describes her life as an illustrator, and adds her image as she painted it on a pebble stone among many images from the books she illustrated.

Michel Kichka is a happy character; he came to Israel as a child from Belgium and brought with him European traditions of drawing. He draws himself writing the letter to us. In a childhood photograph he is dressed as a cowboy, in a drawing from age 8 he depicts himself in the same outfit.

Mariam Bartov, now over 90, draws herself as she looks today, but also adds to the letter a picture of a soldier she drew as a child, and she says that this was her first step into her life as an artists Many of her illustrations are paper cuts in black and white, some times with one color added, as one can see on the envelope. Belonging to a different era in book illustration.

Shaul Shatz, an orthodox artist from Jerusalem depicts himself just like he is.

David Polonsky immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union as a child. He draws his portrait like a micrograph, made of words. He writes that the words he chose to create the portrait with include lists of things he likes to draw, such as: dragons, witches, warriors, birds in a nest, ducks, a blind man with a dog and many many more.

Actus Group is a group of five artists that work together. They see themselves sometimes as one creature with many heads and sometimes as separate entities.

A few more artists that represent themselves in their work, with or without noticing that it happens are Avner Katz; Gad Ullman; Hilla Havkin; Grisha Bluger; and Raya Bar-Adon.

And last but not least, Eitan Kedmy. In his letter he puts a picture of a sculpture of himself in the middle, and a drawing of himself on the left hand side. On the top right hand corner a sticker of the characters he invented, Musi and Musa, which are our logo. A huge sculpture of them stands on the roof of the youth wing which houses our library, as you saw in a slide in the beginning of my talk. Here they are again, they add a smile to the seriousness of the museum visit.

For any further information you can contact me.