The work of acclaimed author, illustrator, and former producer with RFE/RL’s Czechoslovak service Miroslav Sasek is on display at the Gallery Ve Smeckach in Prague until June 28.
, which opened April 22 and is sponsored by the Miroslav Sasek Foundation and the BAOBAB publishing house, features his original illustrations, paintings, and books, including artwork he did as a travel writer from Rome, Australia, Hong Kong, Paris, New York, and many other cities.
Sasek was born in Prague in 1916. Though his dream was to become an artist, his parents discouraged him from drawing and pushed him to train as an architect. After finishing his studies he went on to visit Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium, a tour that would cement his desire to combine his two passions: illustrating and writing books for children about foreign countries.
Prior to and during the Second World War, Sasek illustrated many children’s books and drew cartoons for magazines and newspapers. In 1947 he went to Paris to study drawing at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and did not return to Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup in 1948.
Unable to go back home, he stayed in Paris and worked as a graphic designer before joining RFE/RL as a radio theater producer, actor, and singer with the Czechoslovak Service, where he worked until 1957. During his time at RFE/RL he almost always starred in the service’s popular radio program, "Theater of the Week." He continued to cooperate with RFE/RL after 1957, filing short stories from his travels that were read on the air. He also illustrated anti-communist flyers that were transported to Czechoslovakia in the 1950s by hot air balloons, and designed layouts, covers, and illustrations for a number of magazines published by Czech exiles.
“This is Paris,” the first in his series of illustrated city guides geared toward children, was immensely successful; in all he published 20 titles in the “This is” collection.
His books have been translated into many languages and met with critical acclaim--in 1959 and 1960 the “New York Times” named him the Best Illustrator of Books for Children of the Year for “This Is London” and “This Is New York.”
Sasek died on May 28, 1980 in Wettingen, near Zurich, while visiting his younger sister Vera.