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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Rien Poortvliet, Dutch artist and illustrator well worth remembering.




I proudly present

Rien Poortvliet (1932- 1995)

Rien was born in Schiedam, Holland.

(His name may not ring a bell straight away but mention the word Gnome and bells sound, resound, loudly, happily...)


Rien's "shortish" Biography

His parents were strict Dutch Reformists. They had Rien's future firmly mapped out and were quite opposed to the idea of their oldest son going to study art.

Rien's talent was apparent at a very early age. After finishing his primary education he went to work for an advertising agency. (Where he was able to let his talent mature and learn the "in's and out's" of the publishing world.)

Poortvliet's heart really lay in illustration and it was by the end of the 1960s that he felt it was time to resign from publishing and change career.

He became an independent illustrator.

Not having enough work when starting out on this new journey (rings loads of loud bells for many of us out there!) he made ends meat by publishing a book of his studies and paintings. All were based on his love of animals, knowledge of hunting and respect of wildlife. This "lean" period was his blessing in disguise: so many more books followed. (I highly recommend getting your hands on (well at least one, if you don't have one already!) Barnes & Noble seem to have the best selection.



"Leven en werken van de Kabouter" (co-authored by Wil Huygen, English title "Gnomes") saw an astonishing 59 printings.

With the Gnomes series Poortvliet acquired international fame.

He sold over 11 million copies of his books worldwide.

This fame continued to grow even after his death: his series took on a life of its own, not only were they translated into English, French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Italian and many other languages but also made into a cartoon.

(More facts and figures can be found in wikipedia)


I have tried to make this short but this Dutch painter/illustrator deserves time, credit and so much more.
Here's why....

  • Poortvliet saw himself as a characteristic narrator. His drawings told the tale (and amazingly so I must add)
  • In my mind, and this is what really draws me to his work, he was an artist with a sense of humour, grounded, warm, clever and incredibly talented.
  • His choice and deep understanding of his subjects: horses, dogs, children, everyday working people and even his wonderful imaginary Gnomes come alive, are alive...
  • He fearlessly renders subjects in any medium: oil, pen & ink, charcoal or watercolour.


  • He perfectly renders subjects in any genre: sketched or detailed fine art.
  • Through one stroke he pinpoints the essential, mirrors emotions, highlights worlds and lives.
  • His accuracy is tremendous.
  • His palette of choice is warm, earthy. His studies all show a clever and convincing use of ochres, browns, golds, umber, reds...


To answer Maggie Stiefvater's question: what would I like to steal for my very own?
Simple.
The beauty and accuracy of his stroke.

All illustrations shown here are have been scanned from my treasured Rien Poortvliet books (Dogs, Horses and Gnomes)

11 comments:

Jo Castillo said...

Sheona, wonderful choice. I want to steal some of that, too.

Your Jack Russells are wonderful, too. Thank you for sharing your secrets and how you work. Impressive and organized. Can I steal some of that, too?

I came over from Maggie's blog, I'll be back.

Tania said...

Wow! I'm learing so much from this project - I've seen (and admired) the Gnomes book before, but never knew anything else about the artist behind those fantastic illustrations. I love his dogs! Thanks :)

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

Jo: Steal away- I'm flattered. Thanks for popping in and a warm welcome to "Black on Grey on White"

Tania: Poortvliet was amazing. You should try and get your hands on one of his books...well worth having a look at!

Gillian McMurray said...

Wow! This is beautiful work. I will need to look into this guy a little more. Thank you for sharing about him.

Tracy Hall said...

That is an awesome flying duck! His gnomes are beautiful too, I've never heard of him but will go look him up, thanks Sheona!

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

Gillian and Tracy: very welcome. He is really worth checking out: apart from talent he had a great sense of humour. I'm sure you'll both like want you'll see.

Jennifer said...

One of my favorite artists, thank you for this post! I have several of his books and look through them for inspiration.

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

Jennifer thank you. I do the same open: his books and always see something new. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

One of my absolute favorite artists. Thank you so much for this post. I have several of his books.

Studio at the Farm said...

I am also a great fan of Rien's art work; his ability to tell a story with his work was wonderful. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

Kathryn you are so right: Rien was a genius with his art. Thank you for stoping by :D