Fantastic Toys: German Artist Monika Beisner’s Vintage Celebration of the Unselfconscious Imagination

“Everything that is possible is real.”

Fantastic Toys: German Artist Monika Beisner’s Vintage Celebration of the Unselfconscious Imagination

David Byrne’s delightful future dingbat history was illustrated a generation ago, while Luigi Serafini, an Italian architect and designer, created the astonishing encyclopedia that he used to describe imaginary objects three years earlier. Monika Beisner anticipated both conceptual seeds in her 1973 gem Fantastic Toys (public library) — a wondrous catalogue of imaginary toys, ranging from jumping boots (“green with yellow laces”) for joining the birds to colossal inflatable flowers for peeing over garden walls to a Skipping Machine composed of giant wind-up dolls, each “gaily painted and waterproof.”

It is German in a subversive Goethe kind of way: poetic but playful, exultant without bombast — an unselfconscious celebration of childhood’s boundless imagination in which, as in Bach’s, “everything that is possible is real.”

You can still make some of these delights with the help of science, such as a giant bath-foam bunny.

Some have become strange sidewise realities in the half-century since — the sheep toboggan with heated horns to hold onto calls to mind the heated handlebar gloves now common on food delivery electric bicycles, both technologies so unimaginable in 1973 as to approximate the fantastically impossible.

Some paint delightfully detailed vignettes of the imagination that become miniature fables — in her description of “The Organ Punch and Judy Show,” wherein the child plays the story of Punch and the Magic Flower, Beisner writes:

You can clearly see Punch just discovered the Magic Flower, after much searching. The crocodile is determined to consume it. Judy yells for help and the cop jumps out to knock the crocodile into its organ pipes. The boa constrictor is so pleased that he gives a flower to the girl’s cat.

Complement Fantastic Toys with How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself — a kindred celebration of the grownup child’s imagination — then revisit To Believe in Things — poet Joseph Pintauro and artist Corita Kent’s lovely vintage children’s book for grownups celebrating the love of life in the face of finitude.

Donating = Loving

Over the past decade, I spent hundreds of hours and thousands each month writing. MarginalianIt was known for the infuriating name Brain Pickings its first 15 years. The site has survived despite being ad-free, and thanks to readers’ patronage it is still free. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. Consider donating if you feel this work makes your life easier. Every dollar counts.


MarginalianReceive a weekly free newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s most inspiring reading. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Related Posts