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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

The Foundation Les Maitres de l’Imaginaire Exhibits in China!

People who work in the field of children’s literature often hear quite a bit about China’s growing interest in books for youth. Now, at Tsinghua University Art Museum in Beijing, 180 works from 40 international illustrators, including the U.S., are on display. The illustrations, are part of the collection of the Foundation Les Matres de l’Imaginaire and include illustrations for books, and art for classic fairy tales and original stories.

The show currently contains the following artists:

Here’s a very small smattering of the art that’s on display:

From the book The Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea by Guy Billout
From the book The Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault, ill. Sarah Moon
From The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop, ill. Jerry Pinkney

Can you remember what exhibition openings felt like? In China they can have them again. Here are some glimpses of the show!

Here too is a statement from the chairman of the Foundation Les Matres de l’Imaginaire, Etienne Delessert:


Within our weary adult lives, there is always a moment when we dream of our childhood: when trees grew mysterious branches, when every drop of rain told a story and birds invented the melodies now heard on a cell phone.

At that time in our lives, we watched ants build sand castles for their homes and hornets paste wood fibers together to build their delicately intricate nests. We were part of the smallest events, part of very special dramas. We told many stories about our private worlds. We had imagination nurtured by the birds, the trees, and the buzzing hornets.

All that time we were creating pictures, narrative pictures that illuminated the myriads of stories we loved, or feared. We selected images so vivid that, once in a while, we still see them again as adults–fresh, humorous, powerful. These are our Illustrations.

There is, in the words of the great curator François Mathey, at Le Louvre in the 70s, “a new generation of graphic artists who paint and draw for magazines, newspapers, posters, animated films and picture books: they are seen by a large, very large public. They want to see their art printed. They can draw about our times, in complete adequacy with the social changes, or with the political mediatic chaos. They also, better than most artists, find the narrative melodies that shape our inner self, deep, very deep down.”

As we know, melodies are mysterious: we find them in music, but also in a harmoniously built skyscraper, a palace or a very old farm, in a novel, a play, a film, a picture book. The story is defined with a few notes, the color placed, the sound reflected forever in our memory.

IMAGE OF THE WEST, presented by the Tsinghua University Art Museum is bringing to Beijing the work of some of the best artists who have chosen the picture book format to express their own melodies. In Europe and the United States, they explore their imagination in so many diverse ways…

Some inform, others give a fresh interpretation to tales written centuries ago, which still have profound meaning today. And a few others write their own precious memories, transforming reality with paint and colors. We recognize them as authors whose strength inspires millions of young readers–and adults.

The Maîtres de l’Imaginaire Foundation was created in 2017, in Switzerland, with the goal of collecting, exposing, archiving, and documenting the original art of some of the best graphic artists, with the clear vision to expand the collection by inviting Asian illustrators. Organized with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Beijing, as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations between Switzerland and China, the Tsinghua University Art Museum exhibition is a vivid proof of the diversity of the Art of Illustration, at a time when we can wonder if inspiring picture books will still exist in a few years, crushed under the banality of commercial publications, or erased by digital games and cell phone stimulations.

Les Maîtres de l’Imaginaire

Etienne Delessert

Lakeville October 2020

The exhibition runs until the end of February next year. You can see a video about the show here.

Thanks to Etienne for the info and images!

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.