Maxipes Fík illustrator Jiří Šalamoun passes at age 86

The Czech Ministry of Culture called him ‘one of the most important Czech illustrators of the second half of the 20th century.’

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 01.04.2022 16:13:00 (updated on 01.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech artist and illustrator Jiří Šalamoun died on March 31 at the age of 86 at Prague’s General Univesity Hospital (VFN). Šalamoun was known to several generations as the illustrator of the 1970s cartoon series Maxipes Fík.

The Czech Ministry of Culture called him one of the most important Czech illustrators of the second half of the 20th century.

“His drawings are characterized by playfulness, wit, brevity, and sarcasm. He has illustrated over 100 books and holds a number of awards,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Two seasons of Maxipes Fík cartoons were made, in 1975 and ’78, totaling 26 episodes. The cartoons, drawn in a minimalist style, follow the exploits of the large talking dog Fík and a young girl named Ája. The cartoons were written by Rudolf Čechura and directed by Vaclav Bedrich.

The cartoons took place near the Czech town of Kadaň, which now has an embankment named after Maxipes Fík.

“We are sorry to learn today about the death of Jiří Šalamoun, an illustrator whose most famous cartoon character has become one of the symbols of our town, especially among children. There is no one in the Czech Republic who does not know Maxipes Fík and his stories and wild dreams,” the town said on Facebook.

The town added that Šalamoun has given the city approval for the only authorized statue of Maxipes Fík, which has been in the town since 2017.

Šalamoun was also the long-time head of the illustration and book graphics studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM) in Prague. He illustrated the Czech edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” as well as William Saroyan's “Tracy's Tiger,” Charles Dickens' “The Pickwick Papers,” James Fenimore Cooper's “The Last of the Mohicans,” and Ota Hofman's “Mr. Tau and a Thousand Miracles.”

He won awards for the Most Beautiful Book, given out by the Museum of Czech Literature, in 1966, 1970, and 1977. He also earned a silver medal at the 1977 International Book Art (IBA) exhibition in Leipzig, Germany. In 2001, Maxipes Fík was featured on a Czech postage stamp.

His other works include lithographs, theater posters, film titles, and two collections of poems.

Last year, Museum Kampa hosted a large exhibition of Šalamoun's works called “Not Seeing Is Not Believing, Believe Me!” In social media posts, the museum said it was “deeply saddened” by the news of his passing.

Politician Jiří Pospíšil, who is on the museum’s board of directors, said, “The starry sky has been filling up lately.” He added that it was an honor to have Šalamoun's last large exhibition at Kampa.

Museum Kampa summed up Šalamoun’s career in their description of the exhibition. “The main ingredient in Šalamoun’s illustrations is humor – mostly a tad mischievous and subversive; they also ooze skepticism and, at the same time, insight into the trivialities of life, generous imagination and meticulous attention to detail. The history of everyday life in the 20th century is reflected in his work as in a mirror maze that comically enhances certain aspects of reality,” Museum Kampa stated when the exhibition opened in July 2021.

“Šalamoun’s unmistakable, distinctive manner mixes the guileless spontaneity of children’s drawings with the naïve sentimentality of folk paintings and the cruel naturalism of broadsides,” Museum Kampa added.

Šalamoun was born in Prague in 1935 and studied graphic design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (AVU) and the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig (HGB) in Leipzig. He taught in America and Europe, including at UMPRUM.

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