Dick Bruna was born in the city of Utrecht in 1927 into a family of publishers, his great-grandfather founded the great Dutch publishing house A.W Bruna & son in 1868 and so throughout his youth, he was exposed to great books, authors, illustrators, and designers. He was expected by his family to go into the publishing business, but Dick despised the marketing and business of the publishing house instead he was naturally inclined towards art and design. After the turbulence of war, Dick could not settle to school and so served internships in London, Paris, and Utrecht enjoying the opportunity to see exhibitions and attend museums and galleries.
"I really went from one gallery to another, all day. I was so much impressed by the work of Picasso and Léger, Matisse, Braque and all those people". Dick Bruna
Dick attends The State Academy in Amsterdam but he did not complete his studies here as he said he had no talent for painting or perspective. On returning home he fell in love and proposed marriage to Irene de Jongh, but her father insists he gets a proper job and so reticently he accepts a position in the family business A.W.Bruna & son, and it is here that he hones his graphic design skills creating many wonderful book covers. In 1954 the company branched into Pocket/ Black Bears small paperback books similar to their competitors. Dick was allowed to try to make covers for this new format and drawing on his favourite artist Matisse he created distinct bold designs using black and primary colours and often using collage he liked its surprising results.
"The first year a series of about six books appeared, the second year there were roughly eighteen, but soon afterwards there were more than one hundred a year. I realized that I, at this rate, had to apply all possible techniques: drawing , tearing, cutting, collage. The black bears were my artschool." Dick Bruna
In this way, he developed a new corporate identity for the company designing posters for railway stations to promote new editions over the years. During his time with the company, 20 years from 1952-1972, he produced over 2000 book covers and over 1000 posters.
But it was on a wet summer holiday that his most popular and iconic design appeared, a small white rabbit called 'Nijntje' or 'Miffy' (Little Rabbit) in English, created to entertain his son. Miffy was to feature in 32 books and has so far sold over 85 million copies worldwide.
This career in children's books resulted in 124 children's books, the last being 'A Gift for Grandpa Bunny' in 2009. Dick Bruna died on February 16th, 2017 aged 89 in his home city of Utrecht, in our hearts and children's libraries he lives on through his wonderful creativity and the enigmatic Miffy
“I would love to be able to draw like a child, so spontaneous, so open-minded on those big sheets. As an adult you start to draw and then hope that you make something good, something beautiful. A child is not like that, they start and see what happens... I draw things you will see close to home, things that I also like. Maybe I still think a bit like a child, I have a childish mind, I think. There are a lot of things I don’t understand.”Dick Bruna