Anita Paegle’s (1956) wonderful book illustrations have been captivating children’s attention for more than 30 years. She is a graduate from the Janis Rozentals Art School of Riga and the Graphic Art Department of the Latvian Academy of Arts. She has been illustrating solely children’s books. Ever since 1981, when Paegle began to collaborate with the publishers Liesma and later with the publishers Sprīdītis, she has consistently developed her special, inimitable style of illustration. She has illustrated over 35 books, among them many original works by outstanding Latvian writers. One of the main indicators of quality in children’s books is the harmony of text
and illustration, and Anita Paegle can certainly be called a co-author of Jānis Baltvilks’, Māra Cielēna’ and Juris Zvirgdiņš’ books. She has regularly contributes illustrations to the children’s magazines Zilite (Titmouse; since 1986) and Ezis (Hedgehog; since 1990). She is one of the founders of the Annual Baltic Sea Region Jānis Baltvilks International Prize in Children’s Literature and Book Art, what from the first year 2005 till nowadays has become the highest Latvian recognition given to an author, an illustrator, a foreign author from Baltic Sea states and a translator of children’s and youth books. Every year Latvian section of IBBY presents the Janis Baltvilks Prize to a living authors, illustrator and translator whose works have made the best contribution to children’s and youth literature.
Paegle only works in watercolour, layering the paintings to obtain great colour saturation and brilliance. Reminiscent of ancient miniatures, her illustrations of plants and animals, antique objects and musical instruments, architecture and history embody a style that can be characterised as hyperrealistic romanticism.
She usually depicts the characteristic architecture of Riga as the backdrop for the events of the fairytales. Attention to detail evokes childhood memories,
a time when things were seen in a different light and perspective from what they seem when living in the world of the grownups. She is an artist-observer who knows how to stop a child dragged along by the frantic pace of the contemporary lifestyle, drawing their attention to subtle nuances.
Her artwork has been featured in several national and international group and solo exhibitions. She has taken part in the International Artist’s Book Triennial in Vilnius, Lithuania (1987, 1990), the Biennial of Illustrations in Bratislava, Slovakia (1999, 2001, 2015), Tallinn (Estonia) Illustration Triennial “The Power of Pictures”
(2003, 2006, 2009, the diploma for illustrations to M. Cielēna’s book “When the Queen Was in Riga” (Kad karaliene bij Rīgā) in 2003), as well as the Biennial of European Illustration in Japan (2001). Books illustrated by Anita Paegle have been exhibited at book fairs in Bologna, Frankfurt, Munich, Prague. She has held 20 solo exhibitions in Latvia, Estonia, France, Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russia. A notable event was her solo exhibition “Orchestra of Silence” (Klusuma orķestris) at the Latvian National Museum of Art in 2006.
This exhibition was also shown at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg in 2008.
Anita Paegle has regularly received acclaim and awards.
For her illustrations to M. Cielēna’s book “Night Adventures of the Clocks” (Pulksteņu nakts gaitas, 1997) she received the Spring Prize 1998 and the Pastariņš Prize 1999 and has been included in the IBBY Honour List 2000.
For illustrations to the book “Flutteria and Other Fairytales” (Plīvija un citas pasakas) by J. Baltvilks she received the Spring Prize 2001 and the Pastariņš Prize 2001. That same year, two books by M. Cielēna that she had illustrated – “Fairy Tales of the City and Fairy Tales of the World” (Pilsētas pasakas un pasaules pasakas) and “When the Queen Was in Riga” (Kad karaliene bij
Rīgā) - received second and third prize in the annual book competition Most Beautiful Book 2001. The book “Wolves Haul Firewood” (Vilki velk malku) by J. Baltvilks won first prize in the book competition Most Beautiful Book 2003. For her illustrations and design of the fairy-tales “Meow and Purr” (Ņau un murr) by M. Cielēna she won first prize in the book art competition Golden Apple-Tree Award (Zelta ābele) 2005, the Jānis Baltvilks Prize 2006 and
the Indriķis Zeberiņš Prize 2007. Paegle’s work has been highly acclaimed
in recent years as well: the book “Pixie-Boy Pepper” (Ķipars Pipars) by
L. Gundars with her illustrations has been nominated for the Annual Prize for Book Publishing 2008, the book “Two Walks” (Divas pastaigas, 2010) by
M. Cielēna has been nominated for the Jānis Baltvilks Prize 2010, the books “Winter Fairytale” (Ziemas pasaka) and “Sleep Fairytale” (Miega pasaka) by
J. Zvirgzdiņš have been nominated for the book art competition Golden Apple-Tree Award (Zelta ābele) 2015 and won the first prize.
Anita Paegle was nominee of Hans Christian Andersen Award 2012,
of Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2013 and 2014.
For her contribution to the development of children’s book art she received the Award of Art Academy of Latvia 2014.
In Paegle’s pictures everything is tiny and small, even the background is special and important. Artist tells: “I only work with especially tiny brushes, just a zero, number 1 and number 2. These are special, very important brushes! I like it if the colour is not flat. For example, the blue background
is made up of tiny brushstrokes, and it becomes vibrant, it comes alive and moves.” Immersion in the story has brought the artist much recognition in Latvia and abroad.
Dr. Ilze Stikāne
President of the Latvian Section of IBBY