Growing up in Asia I was certain Miffy or ミッフィー, the cute little white rabbit was a Japanese made. Without a doubt!
After my migration to the Netherlands, I discovered this iconic rabbit is actually Dutch and her original name is Nijntje.
“She is not Japanese and she is not friends with Hello Kitty?”, I gasped in disbelief.
So I came to know about Dick Bruna (23 August 1927 – 16 February 2017) – illustrator, author, artist and graphic designer. He was best known for his illustration work on Zwarte Beertjes (Little Black Bears) children’s books and of course, as the creator of Nijntje.
His simple drawn Nijntje book series was first produced in 1955. It has become one of the most recognizable character through out the world, translated into more than 50 languages in 85 countries. Apart from that, Dick Bruna designed more than two thousand book covers and illustrated posters, postcards, prints and other promotional materials for his father’s publishing company, A.W. Bruna & Zoon. His works include Havank’s The Shadow novels, Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels, Jean Bruce’s O.S.S. 117 series and The Saint novels by Leslie Charteris. Bruna retired as an artist in 2011.
This Utrecht-born artist had a studio on Jeruzalemstraat, a stone throw away from the iconic Dom Cathedral. The interior of his studio content has been moved from its location to the attic of Centraal Museum. The entirety consisted of furniture, drawing board, desk, typewriter, bookshelves, his published books collection, personal photos, stationary, gifts from fans, letters from fellow artists and even his bike that he rode through the streets of Utrecht on his daily journey to work. Dick Bruna’s studio is now reconstructed as a permanent exhibit, Expo 9, at the Centraal Museum.
I had to visit! I wanted to see where the white bunny with two dots for eyes and a cross for her mouth was created. I skipped everything else in the museum and went straight to the atelier on the 4th floor.
The exposition was intimate. General explanation and sign boards were written in Dutch, English and Japanese. There were audiovisual presentation, lots of personal memorabilia, display cases showing (changing) selection of his works, his cozy reading area and his tidy workspace. A replica studio where Bruna worked every day for the last 30 years of his career! The museum did a great job in preserving much of the original atmosphere. A must to visit for all fans!!
Dick Bruna died in his sleep on 16 February 2017 at the age of 89.
Address: Agnietenstraat 1.
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-5pm. Every first Thursday of the month until 9pm.
Entrance Fees: €13.50 for adults and €5.50 for youth age 13-17 yrs old. Free for kids up to 12 yrs old and also Museumkaart holders.
Tickets also include admission on the same day to the Rietveld Schröder House with a surcharge of €3.00 and reservation is required prior to visiting.
Getting There: http://centraalmuseum.nl/en/visit/route/
Utrecht central station is approximately 20 minutes walk away.