On 16th February 2017 Dick Bruna died at the age of 89. He was the creator of 124 children’s books, his most famous creation being Nijntje, known as Miffy in English, the little white rabbit with the cross for a mouth, who continues to entertain young and old even 62 years after her creation. The Miffy books have been translated into 50 languages, including Latin, their success making Bruna one of the richest authors in the Netherlands.
The simple drawing style of the Miffy stories with their bold lines and primary colours is reflected in Bruna’s stories, straightforward narratives of everyday situations, but the simplicity conceals psychological insight combined with a deep knowledge of art history and graphic design. The drawing makes clear references to De Stijl, from the square format of the books to the black lines and blocks of colour. The outlines which at first appear so straight turn out to be shaky on close inspection, giving the pictures a homely feel.
Bruna learnt about the book business from his father, the renowned publisher A. W. Bruna, starting his own career as a designer of book covers, for which it was his policy always to read the entire manuscript. From this period he is probably best known for his work on the Zwarte Beertjes (Black Bears) paperback series. Only later did he start his illustration work, moving on to produce the children’s books so popular over multiple generations.
Bruna’s home city of Utrecht is also the location of the Miffy Museum, where children can get to work with paint and paper as well as admiring Bruna’s studio.
Read more about Bruna's work in this article from The Low Countries Yearbook or listen to this podcast of a tribute to Bruna on BBC Radio 4's Last Word, with the relevant section starting just after 7 minutes into the broadcast.