The Only Children's Book of the Belgian Avant-Garde

JESPERS (Floris) – PEETERS (Jan)

Kinderlust [= Children’s Joy].

(Antwerp, Drukkerij Reclam, J. F. Bogaerts & R. R. Dodson, 1923).

Oblong 4to, publisher’s colour pictorial wrappers, chemise and slipcase by Atelier Devauchelle. Title, 12 numbered leaves of Dutch text, 12 original colour linocuts by Floris Jespers. Complete.

First and only edition.

The only children’s book produced by a member of the Belgian avant-garde, with rightly famous modernist illustrations.

“This early avant-garde children’s book, with its impressive coloured linoleum prints characterised by an interplay of abstract geometric and decorative patterns in primary colours, is an outstanding example of post-World War I book illustration. The book reflects the interplay of various artistic movements such as Cubism, Constructivism, Expressionism, and De Stijl at the beginning of the Twenties” (Peter Kraus).

Floris Jespers (1889-1965), Belgian painter and watercolourist, well-known for his églomisés or glass paintings. Brother of the renowned sculptor Oscar Jespers, he received his artistic education at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts in 1909 under the tutorship of Franz Courtens. He started painting landscapes and seascapes from 1910 onwards. In the early 1910s, he met Paul van Ostaijen, one of the most important representatives of the Antwerp avant-garde. Deeply influenced by the just-published “Du Cubisme” by Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes, he abandoned his Post-Impressionist touch and gradually evolved towards Cubism, Abstraction and constructive poetic Expressionism until the late 1920s. He contributed to several progressive literary and art journals of the period. He became a member of “Sélection” in 1920, as well as of “Kunst van Heden” in 1921 and “Les Compagnons de l’Art” in 1932. He was also associated with the famed Le Centaure Gallery. After 1930, he created a more intimate oeuvre under the influence of Marc Chagall and Heinrich Campendonck. In the 1950s, extended stays in Congo gave birth to a stylised Africanist oeuvre. He was elected to the Belgian Royal Academy in 1950.

A very good clean copy, with faint traces of use and a neat professional restoration to the fragile spine.

Ref. Antwerp, The New Spring, 1991, p. 417 (illustrated) / Roger Cardon in Belgica Nostra, Brussels, KBR, 2010, 146 / Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library, 2003, 8419 / Patrick Derom, The Belgian 20s, 1992, p. 66 / Not in Olivier Piffault, Babar, Harry Potter & Cie, BnF, 2008