Of course, you are familiar with the huge green ogre Shrek, who adores his swamp and solitude. In Russia, Shrek gained fame thanks to the eponymous cartoon (2001). But the usual animated ogre, modeled and drawn using computer programs, is very different from the first, book Shrek.
The story of Shrek was invented and illustrated by the famous American artist William Steig (1907-2003). This is not his only literary work – in his life Steig has written 25 books. True, the artist began to engage in writing already at an advanced age. Most of his legacy is made up of drawings, caricatures, and magazine illustrations. He created more than 1,600 illustrations for various publications, and, in the words of the influential Newsweek magazine, became King of the Caricature.
William Steig did not seek to be a cartoonist. In his youth, he positioned himself as a free artist, he studied painting and drawing at Yale University, but during the Great Depression, it was necessary to somehow provide for his family, and the cartoons brought good money.
Steig entered the children’s book only in the sixties, being by that time a fairly well-known cartoonist. His first book, Roland the Pig-Minister, was published in 1968. This, and subsequent books, enjoyed tremendous success among children and adults.
Literary and artistic critics also praised Steig’s talent. He received the New York Times Best Picture Illustrated Book Award and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. But, of course, it was not without criticism – for example, the Police Association expressed its complaints to the artist about the book “Sylvester and the Magic Stone”, where the policemen were depicted in the form of pigs.
Others considered Steig a “non-modern” artist – his books for children really looked somewhat old-fashioned in the good sense of the word. Foxes in hats and jackets, a family of hares at a tea party – these characters resembled ladies and gentlemen of the thirties. They had something in common with the cartoons for the New Yorker that William Steig did in his youth.
“At some point I realized that I can treat animals more freely than people, and make them do strange things. I just dressed them the way other writers did before me, ”Steig admitted in one of his interviews.
In Russia, books with illustrations by Steig appeared in the early nineties. Some of them (for example, “Shrek!”) Have not been reprinted for a long time, but today we can say that the interest of Russian readers in the artist’s work is steadily growing. And perhaps soon with the word “Shrek”, our compatriots will remember not only the animated film of the Dreamworks studio, but also a wonderful illustrator, author of children’s books – William Steig