Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio (1883; Limited Editions Club, 1937)
Growing up, I was lucky to have a few books illustrated by Richard Floethe: Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, as well as Pinocchio. Floethe’s strong, minimalist images were very striking to me, with their clean lines and simple shapes. Like many who develop a relationship to an illustrator in childhood, it’s hard for me to see these books illustrated in any other way.
Richard Floethe was a German-born, Bauhaus-influenced artist who studied with Kandinsky and Klee. After moving to New York city in 1928, he worked in advertising and as a freelance illustrator and portrait painter. The commission to illustrate Pinocchio for the Limited Editions Club came when he was only 36 years old.
The linocut technique (a modern variant of woodcut printing) was fairly new at the time, and Floethe employs it masterfully. Areas of color are beautifully composed and complemented with the negative white space to create lively but perfectly balanced images.
. . . or starts to turn into a donkey.
But in the end Floethe’s jaunty puppet comes through all his adventures unscathed, still in his cheerful outfit of blue, coral and brown. These images will always be “Pinocchio” to me: amusing, stylish, and slightly abstract.
More of Richard Floethe’s very interesting and diverse work can be viewed in this gallery.