Saturday, 17 October 2015

Dick Bruna. Artist

Illustration Dick Bruna © copyright Mercis bv, 1997

The cute little rabbit Miffy first appeared in a Dutch picture book sixty years ago, on June 21, 1955. Since then the character has been loved by children from around the world. The Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the birth of Miffy in the exhibition “Dick Bruna. Artist,” that showcases the man who sent Miffy out into the world.

When putting his young son to bed, Bruna used to tell stories about a rabbit that they once saw together. This rabbit would become Miffy. Bruna envisioned the rabbit wearing a dress when he saw a piece by Matisse, he recalled years later.
Bruna first came into contact with Matisse when he visited Paris while preparing to take over his family’s publishing business. During breaks from work he frequented art museums and galleries and was stunned by the work of Matisse, Leger and Picasso. Until then, Bruna had enjoyed looking at collected works of Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Now he was deeply impressed by these artists’ abstract and simple shapes using one color and the bold lines that formed them.

Dick Bruna at the Rijksmuseum in 2011.
Photo: Rijksmuseum
During one period, Bruna worked hard to try to master the smooth and flowing lines of Matisse. “In my drawings of that time you can see that I was trying to be like Matisse, without imitating him,” he recalls. There are clear similarities between their works such as circular smooth lines, but of course there are also differences. Matisse moved his brush swiftly without pause, and the same line could vary in degrees of thickness and gradations, while Bruna moves his brush cautiously to achieve a solid outline.

Bruna emulated the lines of Matisse, but his creativity was also stimulated by the clear line drawing and minimalist use of colors of Picasso, Braque and Leger. And the works of Gerrit Rietveld, a member of the Dutch artistic movement De Stijle, influenced the square form that characterizes Miffy’s picture books. The exhibit displays the works of these artists alongside those of Bruna so that we may see Bruna as an artist rather than a picture book author.

Dick Bruna. Artist. Until November 15.
Museumstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Open daily 9:00-17:00