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1 posts categorized "..vintage books"

Illustrators of Children’s Books

Sweet, sweet memories… Whenever I see my 10-month old son looking in amazement at his illustrated baby books, I start thinking about my own childhood and how crazy I was about illustrated books. For me these books were the ultimate escape to a world of fantasy and adventure. My mother tells me that I would sit on the couch for hours surrounded by books illustrated by Dick Bruna and Fiep Westendorp with a big blush on my cheeks of excitement. I still get excited about illustrations by Bruna, Fiep Westendorp and many other illustrators of children’s books. The variety and contrast in the work of these artists is incredible and create so many different worlds of wonder for children. The apparent ease with which Bruna creates his beautiful illustrations, only a few strokes of a pencil… and the detailed work of Fiep Westendorp never ceases to amaze me. Their illustrations are true works of art. Browsing the web I found it impressive to see how much knowledge and information the Japanese have in this area. There is an active trading market for collectors of illustrations and books and many Japanese websites are practically libraries of children books and illustrations. So… as you have guessed by now…this read is in honor of the two Dutch illustrators who made my childhood great fun and hopefully will have the same impact on generations to come… but also I would like to show you some of the fabulous illustrations for children’s books by Paul Rand and Stig Lindberg.
{image from Freckle Wonder, a great vintage store and Blog

Fiep Westendorp


If someone would ask me to describe the work of Fiep Westendorp, I would say her work is full of humor. It is also very colorful and incredibly creative, she has such a great eye for detail… the illustrations tell their own story, there is almost no need to be able to read, just look at the illustrations and you will instantly make up your own fantasy… Sophia Maria Westendorp was born in Zaltbommel, the Netherlands on 17 December 1916 (for those of you familiar with the “low lands”, when you cross the bridge over the “Waal” river you will see the famous tower of the old Zaltbommel church  rising above the trees, a beautiful sight…). Fiep Westendorp has illustrated many books of which only a few were written by Annie M.G. Schmidt. However, in the minds of the Dutch the work of these two women is very much linked. They collaborated for more than forty years, starting in 1952 on the children's page of a Dutch newspaper with the adventures of “Yip and Yannika).


At that time, newspaper-printing techniques offered only limited possibilities to print illustrations.  Given these constraints Fiep had to figure out a way to create catching illustrations. She came up with the idea of black and white silhouettes. This distinctive style has characterized Yip and Yannikaand has made them famous throughout the world. Interestingly, Yip and Yannika’s parents were only occasionally featured in Fiep’s illustrations. Fiep wanted her fans to create imagine their own versions of the parents. 


Also, in the 1950’s Yip and Yannika’s publisher introduced curtains with the black and white silhouettes. Such a great idea and would look absolutely amazing in your baby’s bedroom. If you are lucky enough to own these, please hold on to them…priceless collector’s items… The curtains were produced by a company called Dehnert & Jansen under the label Picture Book Curtains which also included curtains with Pippalloo Bear and Beverley Beps illustrations. 


My favorite Fiep illustration is “Floddertje” or “Messy-Lou”. I remember being so jealous of my older sister when someone gave her a copy as a present…and although she would allow me to read it whenever I wanted, I have always wanted to have my own copy (…which I know do...I gave it to my son…)


One thing that I particularly love about Fieps works is that her drawings always show people a bit like caricatures. It makes me smile and realize what funny creatures we really are… Fiep was struck by how crazy people and situations can be and she felt compelled to draw that craziness. ArtUnlimitedsells a great collection of cards illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. Looking for information about Fiep’s work I was happy to find that two of wonderful blogs, Crust Station and Wee Wonderfuls, have posted about her work. Fiep has done so many beautiful illustrations.. I can only show you a limited sample of the ones that I particularly like, but if you Google her name you will find many more illustrated books and products

Dick Bruna


{image from Duvekot}
Without a doubt Dick Bruna is one of the most famous illustrators of children’s books in the world. Some of his famous creations are Snuffie the dog, Poppie Pig, the bears Boris and Barbara, and his most renowned character, Miffy, the white rabbit (probably the world’s most famous rabbit after bugs bunny…) Miffy was appointed as New York City's Family Tourism Ambassador in 2003, to give the Big Apple a new appeal to children as well as European and Asian visitors (remember Miffy Loves New York City…). 


I just love this stamp series for the Japanese market. Almost too precious to stick on the back of an envelope…


Bruna’s drawings are icons and need no words to tell a story. I think this goes to the heart of Bruna’s talent and the success of Miffy. Dick Bruna has also collaborated with organizations such as UNICEF, Terre des Hommes and the Red Cross. His illustrations for these organizations are simple but yet so powerful in how they get the message across. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to him, which opened at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht in 2000. Make sure to go there on your next visit to the Netherlands!



During the first thirty years of his career Dick Bruna created more than 2000 (!) book covers for his fathers publishing company A.W. Bruna & Zoon. The clear and simply designed covers made the company famous. Book series such as The Saint, the detective series Havank as well as the spy paperbacks OSS 117 all bear Bruna’s signature (my husband just told me his father has the complete OSS 117 series in boxes on the attic, so I guess if I tear off all the covers I can make an impressive collage… I am not sure whether my father in law will think this is such a great idea… but I intend to use my daughter in law charms on him…). 


Paul Rand


As a child I didn’t know Paul Rand’s illustrated children’s books but only was introduced to his illustrations a few years ago. If you would like to share your experiences with Rand’s children’s books, could you please let me know and I will update this section. Many thanks! Paul Rand made some fabulous illustrations. He was a truly exceptional designer and left behind a great legacy. Randis especially famous for his work in the field of corporate  identity. He collaborated with companies such as IBM, ABC, and UPS to create their well-known logos.


Rand also published children's books with his wife, Ann Rand. These illustrated books are characterized by their playful style and are also very educational. His children’s books include “Little 1”, "Do you want to be my friend?" and “Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words”, Other books are “Listen! Listen!” and “I know a lot of things”.


The illustrations by Paul Rand are simply unique. I love the splashes of color as well as the oddly shaped and overlapping objects, mixed with black and white.  His posters are true collector’s items and you would easily pay in excess of a couple of hundred dollars to get your hands on one, but I think it would be worth the investment! Just recently I came across an old version of “Sparkle and Spin” in my favorite Toronto bookstore… I will be on the look out for more of such great finds…



Stig Lindberg


You might recall that in the vintage weekend read I mentioned the illustrations by Stig Lindberg. This is just a selection of the children’s books he illustrated. His style is very distinctive. I love the strong colors against the black and white backgrounds. You can buy illustrated prints by Stig at Zimmerdahl.


Other beautiful illustrations…


{images from a wonderful Japanese website called Curio Books}

When preparing this read I found many other very beautiful illustrations. I am not familiar with the artists but just wanted to show you a collage of some of the illustrations that just make you happy by looking at them…

Some of my handy work…


And here is some my early artistic work… they say that when you stay within the lines you are afraid to show your creativity… I sort of like this interpretation… but will let you be the judge of that… Can you believe that this book is thirty years old? It is just amazing how timeless Bruna's work is...

{originally posted in March 2007}

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