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Christmas at the Mortlock this year is inspired by the designs of Czechoslovakian paper artist Vojtěch Kubašta (b.1914 Vienna, d.1992 Prague).  Kubašta was one of the most prolific and inventive paper engineers in the history of children’s pop-up books and his designs extended to three-dimensional advertising materials, postcards, and pamphlets.  

Each year Kubašta created a new pop-up Christmas scene for greeting cards, table toppers and advent calendars which featured the snow-covered scenes of his own fond Christmas memories. When NAZI forces tried to ‘redefine’ Christmas in occupied Prague during World War Two, Kubašta resisted by designing the celebrated 3-D Christmas creche with traditional Old Prague scenes to comfort the locals. 

In moments of great timing, this Kubašta Father Christmas pop-up book (1961), was donated just as we were planning this year’s Christmas displays. We were immediately enchanted by the scenes of Christmases past, from the traditional 19th Century carolers to the 1950s-inspired toys, and design elements such as the cellophane windows.

Father Christmas, featured in Vojtěch Kubašta story book. SLSA: clrc i22817190 bc
Father Christmas, featured in Vojtěch Kubašta story book. SLSA: clrc i22817190 fc

Kubašta's most inventive works feature a large portfolio sized tri-fold book with the story stapled into the centre. The great surprise is at the end as the back cover is folded out to bring to life the gloriously colourful double pop-up artworks, some of which stand at 33 centimetres high. The addition of Father Christmas brings the State Library’s collection of Kubašta pop-up works to 13, with themes including Noah’s Ark, Easter, a circus theme and the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.

A pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

A pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

A pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of a page from Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of a page from Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Detail of a page from Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

A pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
A pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of the pop-up in Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190
Detail of a page from Father Christmas, a book by Vojtěch Kubašta. SLSA: clrc i22817190

Kubašta’s designs were handcrafted by teams of ladies whom he said moved with the synchronicity of an orchestra at the factory table. He referred to the finished product as A theatre inside the book.

Father Christmas is now on display in the Mortlock chamber of the State Library, next to the giant Christmas Tree.

Written by Denise Chapman, Curator, Access and Engagement

Christmas at the Mortlock

Christmas at the Mortlock, come and see our giant tree
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