The great Czech artist and illustrator Jiří Šalamoun has died at the age of 86. Šalamoun was best known for Maxipes Fík, a cartoon character loved by several generations, and also produced classic book covers and other notable designs.
The white and brown dog Maxipes Fík is one of the most popular and well-known of Czech cartoon characters.
A major reason the show, which originated in the 1970s, is so beloved is the simple but charming and playful animation, based on the drawings of Jiří Šalamoun. He was born in Prague in 1935 and died on Thursday at the age of 86.
In an interview for Czech Radio Šalamoun – one of the country’s most important illustrators in the second half of the 20th century – said he had been drawn to art early in life.
“For me it was the most important thing from a young age. I didn’t even know what it meant, but I did it anyway. I sketched away in pencil. This was at my grandfather’s place in Nový Bydžov; that’s where I did my first drawings. This was during
the war of course – the second world war.”
Looking back, Šalamoun said he had not been overly affected by the winds of modern history in Czechoslovakia.
“I have no reason or right to complain much. Of course, the Protectorate was no fun. And the same went later for socialism. But I managed it somehow, as best I could. Sometimes it was easier, sometimes harder. But I don’t have a sense that I have
Šalamoun characterised his own style as “natural”.
Photo: Filip Čermák, Museum Kampa Photo: Filip Čermák, Museum Kampa
“Of course it reacts to its time period. For me the drawings are normal, natural things, starting from when I was little. Then it depended on what I did, whether it was films, lithographs or posters – it all had to respond to the requirements of
whoever commissioned it, and to the type of work that I was doing.”
The great illustrator and artist, whose work included some classic book covers, also shared insights into his working methods.
“I try to hang on to my initial sketches, so that I have a kind of retrospective control. Sometimes those sketches are more interesting than what later goes out. Most of the time I’m sitting at a desk and as I work I comment a little, even out loud;
that helps me to remember what I’m doing and to take it in. It’s basically a job like any other.”
The multi-award winning Šalamoun was not an illustrator like any other. As well as producing a great amount of work in numerous formats, he headed the illustration and book design studio at Prague’s Academy of Art, Architecture and Design for nearly a
decade and a half.
He's also a cartoonist. Among the works he's illustrated are "The Pickwick Papers," "Tristram Shandy," "The Hobbit," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame,"
and stories by Edgar Allen Poe. (Possibly, they're all Czech editions.)
"Like every dog, Fík was a sweet little puppy at first. But he grows so fast and to such a size that he becomes the terror of the neighborhood. Inside, however, he is truly kind and clever. His adventures start at home with his family, then continue at
school where he is an exemplary pupil, and afterward out in the wide world. He sails the seas, flies a plane, visits Africa and the Polar Circle and returns home an experienced traveler."