Illustrations that celebrate nature

Mousavi’s art prompts reflection, reminding readers of universal moral and human values.

We of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair are delighted and honoured to continue the tradition of having the winners of the Hans Christian Andersen Award and the Grand Prix of the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava design the cover of the Illustrators Annual on alternate years, and stage also a solo exhibition in the heart of the fair dedicated to the artist of that year.

This year, BCBF welcomes Sayed Hassan Mousavi from Iran, winner of the 2019 BIB – Biennial of Illustration Bratislava Grand Prix for the book The Boxer (Tuti Books, 2017).

In his lecture on the artist at BCBF, Ali Boozari of Tehran University and the Iranian Society of Illustrators, said: “Previous generations of Iranian illustrators adopted this art form, experimenting according to their own tastes and talents, and laying the foundations of contemporary Iranian illustration. Having participated in many workshops and courses, Hassan Mousavi belongs to a generation of Iranian illustrators with a firm grounding in the science of illustration and the academic principles of this art form. His talent and perseverance led him to develop a unique style rooted in Iranian visual culture that captivates the public of today.” 

In an interview published in the Illustrators Annual, Mousavi himself had some interesting comments on the artists who most shaped his work: “In 2005, one of the golden eras of Iranian illustration, when I started my own career in illustration, there were several outstanding talents, such as Farshid Shafiee, Morteza Zahedi, Ali Boozari, Rashin Kheyrieh, and Amir Shabanipour.  They played a vital role in shaping Iranian illustration as we know it today. Their works had an impact on novice illustrators, especially those like me who had learned the art of illustration by observing their works, without any masters. However, when I first became acquainted with Květa Pacovská, I was deeply taken by her personality, the charisma of her works and the powerful beauty of their colours.

Other illustrators, such as Saul Steinberg, Brad Holland and Ralph Steadman also astounded me. But if you were to ask me to name the artist who most affected me, I would still say it was Květa Pacovská”.

The exhibition Mousavi has created for BCBF contains published and unpublished works. Despite the diverse range of atmospheres, Nature invariably takes centre stage, whispering and inspiring readers. As Boozari puts it: “Hassan is not just a painter of beautiful images and masterpieces worthy of a museum. Rather, in his books he seeks to evoke contemplation, reminding his audience of moral and human values. In his book ‘The Boxer’, Mousavi makes use of his painterly skills to create illustrations whose riot of beautiful, contrastive colours are a pleasure to the eye even if the reader does not recognize the shapes. His works celebrate nature. They speak of thick forests swaying in the wind, the roar of the waves on the sea, the magic of a bright silver moon in the vast sky, and towering mountains. Humans and animals are just a tiny part of his world, hidden among dense trees and magnificent colourful buildings. In Hassan’s world of illustrations, man is not only the creator; he is also the destroyer. He is not only a builder but also something that has been built; not only active, but also passive. All readers recognize themselves and their lives in his illustrations, and easily identify with his heroes”.