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The Land of Make Believe

The Land of Make Believe

GRHC - October 28th, 2013

The children's map, Land of Make Believe, created by Jaro Hess in the 1930s, captured the imagination of children and their parents as soon as it appeared. While it was just one of his many creations, it is his most well-known work and is still available today.


The fanciful map, the Land of Make Believe, graced the walls of bedrooms and playrooms of many children in the 1940s and ‘50s. While the map was creative and imaginative, it was just one of many surrealistic works created by Jaro Hess.

Born in 1889, he was raised near Prague, Czechoslovakia. His father, an inventor and engineer, had gained fame in European mining and engineering circles. When Hess entered the University of Prague he took a degree in metallurgy, no doubt planning to follow his father’s vocation. However, at the age of sixteen he decided he’d had enough of the school’s rigid discipline and joined the French Foreign Legion. “It was the worst five days of my life,” he later recalled.

Hess came to the United States in 1910. His varied jobs in countless places are too numerous to mention, but a landscaping position brought him to Grand Rapids. Unemployed during the Depression days of the 1930s he turned to making trout fishing flies and designing puppet stages and dioramas for the Grand Rapids Public Museum. It was during this time that Hess began to create art seriously. He painted the Land of Make Believe and Land of the New Testament between 1930 and 1935.

Artist Armand Merizon, who met Hess during the Depression, said of him, “Jaro is so different, so vibrant. He has lived what I would call a truly free life.” 

Full Details

TitleThe Land of Make Believe
KeywordsWYCE; radio; history; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; Jaro Hess; artist
Pubdate StringOctober 28th, 2013

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