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)
- 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...