Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Yue Lin

From a personal perspective, should Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1940-1944) not only be considered as a pioneering French postal aviator and a Grand Prix du roman [Grand Prize for Fiction] winning author (Marotte and Lunt) , but also qualify as a historically significant illustrator who should have been discussed and more comprehensively studied in various graphic design textbook as the designer of several of the most culturally significant symbols of France.

To begin this study with the reasons why Saint-Exupéry was considered to have significant impacts on the development of graphic design, the worldwide cultural phenomenon of the success of Saint-Exupéry’s graphic novel Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince, 1943; Stukalova) allowed that series of “iconic”, “charmingly amateurish” (Senior) illustrations to extensively spread and impact its “dual-targeted” audiences (Magbanua) around the world since its first publication. Which contextual illustrations gradually developed to be the visualizations of the major themes and philosophical meanings of The Little Prince, they were so representative that the most influential three, the character Little Prince (Figure 1 and 2), the boa constrictor (Figure 1 and 2) and one of three sheep the pilot originally drew by the Little Prince’s request (Figure 2), were adopted by one of the leading specialists of currency design, Swiss designer Roger Pfund, as graphic elements in his design for the 50-franc banknotes (French Banknotes) employed from 1980 to 2002 (Hymans 320). Which also had significant long term economic and financial impacts on generations of people.


Figure 1 (French Banknotes)


Figure 2 (French Banknotes)

In terms of the aesthetics of his design, Saint-Exupéry deliberately adopted a unique, mutually comprehensible (Tereza Pop 96), children resembling the form of drawing (Biagioli), as his illustrations revealed a naïve (Tereza Pop 91) and surrealistic (Tereza Pop) style in which he outlined the slightly exaggerated shape with clumsy lines (Sommerfeld) using pen or pencil then painted those shaped with watercolor or crayon-watercolor (Tereza Pop 91). Those illustrations suited but also concretized (Kaniewska 172) the story, “Są one wyraźnie osadzone w fabule i nie wychodzą poza elementy w niej zawarte” (Sommerfeld), “gdyż wpisują się w konwencję tekstu, korespondują z przekazem estetycznym.” ( qtd. in Sommerfeld) Moreover, Saint-Exupéry’s illustrations were also considered to be artistically thought-provoking, as not only did researchers discover the metaphor for spatial representation (Schaeverbeke et al.) in the sheep and the box illustration (Figure 2), but the question of how drawings should be comprehended with the respect to its medium (Wilcox) Saint-Exupéry addressed in the elephant/boa constrictor illustration (Figure 1 and 2) were also re-evaluated.

Despite his previously discussed significant impacts on illustration, when a content analysis for keywords including “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry”, “Little Prince” and “children’s book” was conducted on the current version of Graphic design: A New History (Eskilson), the lack of relevant results clearly indicated that the deficiency of research on the artistic values of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince. In order to establish a comprehensive historical view on graphic design, it is strongly recommended to add Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as an historically significant illustrator who promoted the development of illustration as the author of some of the most culturally significant symbols of France to the latest version of graphic design textbook.




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