"Vaysrusishe Folkmayses" – Illustrations by El Lissitzky – Berlin, 1923
Sold for: $2,400
Auction house commission: 23%
VAT: On commission only
Vaysrusishe Folkmayses [White Russian Folktales], by L. Kvitko [Leib Kvitko]. Published by Idisher sektsye bam Komisaryat far folkbildung, R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) / Lutz & Voght Press, Berlin, 1923. Yiddish.
Belarussian folktales, translated into Yiddish by Leib Kvitko. With 14 black-and-white illustrations by El Lissitzky. Missing cover.
The illustrations for this book were created by Lissitzky when he was living in Berlin. About a year earlier he illustrated another collection of folktales translated by Leib Kbitko ("Ukraineshe Folkmayses” – Ukranian Folktales).
98,  pp, 20 cm. Hard, plain binding, without the original cover. Good-fair condition. Stains, including dampstains. Some creases and small tears to edges. Stamps on the title page, on the following page and on the second to last page (mostly library stamps). Handwritten signature beneath one of the illustrations. Slight worming to the front binding and first leaf (the book has been disinfected). Stains and blemishes to binding.
El (Eliezer Lazar Markovich) Lissitzky (1890-1941), a Jewish-Russian artist, designer, photographer, teacher, typographer and architect, one of the most prominent and important members of the Russian avant-garde.
Lissitzky, an architect by training, contributed much, together with his teacher and friend Kazimir Malevich (see items 255-257), to the conceptualization and development of the Suprematism movement – the abstract art focused on geometric forms. He also designed numerous books and journals, exhibitions, and propaganda posters for the communist regime in Russia and influenced the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements in Europe. In his early days, Lissitzky showed much interest in the Jewish culture and many of his works integrated Jewish motifs (during the years 1915-1916, he took part in the ethnographic expedition headed by S. An-sky to various Jewish settlements). Wanting to promote Jewish culture in Russia after the revolution, he became engaged in designing and illustrating Yiddish children's books, creating several children's books which are considered pioneering masterpieces due to their graphics and typography (see for example, the series of children's book he illustrated in 1919, items 234-236, as well as additional children's books he illustrated, items 237, 241). However, several years later, he abandoned the Jewish motifs in favor of developing a more abstract and universal artistic language.
In 1921, Lissitzky moved to Germany, where he served as the Russian cultural ambassador, engaged in forming connections between Russian and German artists and continued to design books and journals; there he also created some of his most well-known works in the field of book design, including the issues of the journal "Veshch/Gegenstand/Objet", which he founded together with the writer Ilya Ehrenburh (see item 244 and item 249) and a volume of poetry by Vladimir Mayakovsky (see item 245 and item 250).
Lissitzky, who perceived books as immortal artifacts, "monuments of the future" by his definition, used the medium as a tool for spreading the messages of avant-garde and his artistic perception, as indicated by the variety of books in whose design, production or illustration he took part – beginning with children's books and books of poetry (see items 242 and 243) and ending with catalogs, guidebooks and research books (see items 246 and 248).
Lissitzky died in Moscow at the age of 51. In his final years, his artistic work was dedicated mainly to soviet propaganda; yet it seems that the same worldview accompanied his works throughout his life – the belief in goal-oriented creation (Zielbewußte Schaffen, the German term he coined) and the power of art to influence and bring about change.