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Dick Bruna's Miffy - Dutch Bunny Love
Dick Bruna is one of the most famous creators of picture books in the world and is, along with Anton Pieck, one of the Netherlands’ most celebrated artists. He has written and illustrated more than a 100 books for young children, which have sold 85 million copies worldwide. Some of his famous creations are Snuffie the dog, Poppy Pig, the bears Boris and Barbara, and his most renowned character, Miffy, a little white bunny drawn in as few lines and as few colours as possible, and always accompanied by four lines of verse.
Dick Bruna's illustration methods for the Miffy series
Miffy has a lot of different names in different countries:
Nijntje in the Netherlands,
Miffy in England and in Germany,
Kleintjie or Umtwanana in South-Africa,
Coelhinho in Portugal,
and Mouffe in France.
Miffy also appears in Arabic, Hebrew and in Japanese.
Now Miffy is the international name of the Dutch Nijntje Pluis.
Miffy in figures:
118 Miffy books have been published to date.
89 million Miffy picture books have been sold worldwide since her birth in 1955.
15.5cm is the length of each side of Bruna's Miffy books. They are designed to help small hands handle them.
2,000 The number of covers Dick Bruna designed for his father's publishing house.
5 The basic Bruna palette: red, blue, yellow, white and green.
$200 million Miffy's annual income.
1,200 works are currently on show at the dick bruna huis in Utrecht.
12 The number of pages in every Miffy book.
Who is Dick Bruna ?
Dick Bruna (1927) was born the son of a man who became one of the Netherlands largest publishers, A.W.Bruna. The success of the publishing company was based on the fact that they had a book store at almost every railway station. Bruna was destined by his father to become a publisher too, as his father and grandfather before him.
But he did not have the knack for the business side. The young Bruna was constantly drawing. During the Second World War the family moved to a house in the Dutch countryside, and his passion for art deepened: 'I didn't go to school, I was just at home. And we had a book about Rembrandt and one about Van Gogh, and I read those two books I think five or six times.', he explained in an interview.
After some time in London and Paris, where he had to learn the publishing trade, he returned to Holland and began his career as a designer of book covers for the family company. Over the years, he worked on the graphic design of perhaps thousands of the books published by the company, among which The Saint, James Bond and Shakespeare; many of these books appeared in the very successful series called Zwarte Beertjes (Black Bears) for which Bruna designed all of the advertising. His brother got to follow their father in the business.
Dick Bruna married in 1953 with Irene de Jongh when he was 25 and she was 19. They have 3 children. 2 sons: Sierk and Marc and 1 daughter: Madelon. His wife Irene has always been his first editor and critic. When he's finished a new book he places it on a long, sturdy wooden table in his studio and invites her round to see it. 'Then I make coffee or tea and I'm very nervous, really. I'm very nervous. And I look at her and I can see in her face if it is Yes or No.', he once said in an interview.
Miffy was created in 1955 in his first children’s book ‘The Apple’(De Appel) after Bruna had been telling his one-year-old son Sierk stories about a little rabbit they had seen earlier in the dunes, while on holiday at the Dutch coast. Miffy became a girl after Bruna decided that he wanted to draw a dress and not trousers on his rabbit. Depending on the story, Miffy can be a baby or four years old. was created as Nijntje (pronounce Nein-che for “konijntje”, meaning little rabbit in Dutch) and she immediately won the hearts of toddlers and preschoolers in the Netherlands and Dutch-speaking Belgium; soon she conquered the rest of Europe and the world, mostly as Miffy. In 1983 the first 'Miffy playgroup’ opened,
in 1992 she featured in 52 short TV films for Dutch television. In 2001 we saw the premiere of the Miffy musical, the 100th title by Dick Bruna was published and over the next 5 years Miffy notched up her 200th performance of the Miffy musical, introduced Miffy 3d animated films for TV, premiered a second musical and was appointed as New York City Family Tourism Ambassador through her appearances in a guidebook for children, titled Miffy Loves New York City !
Over the years, she gained a cadre of multicultural friends — all animals, but of different species and different colors — as Bruna began to see real children mixing with people of different races. For a little white rabbit she sure does have it going on !
Dick Bruna House
Since February 2006, the work of Dick Bruna is on permanent display in the Dick Bruna house at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. It has mounted a retrospective exhibition with an overview of Dick Bruna’s work. It comprises more than 1,200 works, including his first book covers, children’s books and unpaid work for Amnesty International, the Red Cross and other organizations. Original sketches show the development of Miffy over the years. Besides pencil and ink drawings of Miffy, Bruna’s other characters will also be shown. Documentary films allow insight into his working process and demonstrate Bruna’s lifelong pursuit of the art of simplicity.
Due to Miffy's popularity, it's obvious that Dick Bruna has a major influence on children worldwide and with his method of drawing he makes a clear contribution to modern art. Nevertheless, he doesn't consider himself an artist; "I design children's books", he firmly stated more than once...
All text copyright Arietha Bergsen
Wonderful book documenting the life of Dick Bruna and showing many examples of his work, not just Miffy.