Remembering Dick Bruna: the illustrator who brought us Miffy

Dick Bruna, the illustrator and writer behind children’s character Miffy, has died at age 89.

Dick Bruna © Martin Godwin

Dick Bruna, the Dutch illustrator and designer best known for creating the much-loved children’s character Miffy, has died aged 89.

Bruna was behind the illustrations and words of 124 picture books in total, with a career spanning 60 years. 32 of these books were devoted to Miffy, with the first one published in 1955.

© Mercis bv

He started out his career as a designer in 1951, working for Netherlands book publisher A. W. Bruna & Zoon, and created roughly 2,000 book covers and posters. He also completed client work, designing posters and logos for the City of Utrecht, maternity care organisation Het Groene Kruis and road safety organisation Veilig Verkeer Nederland. He began working on picture books in 1953.

Previously he had tried his hand at publishing at his father’s wishes, then had enrolled at Amsterdam fine art academy Rijksakademie but later dropped out, finding his place in the design and illustration industry without an art degree.

Bruna was known for his simple, line-based illustration style, which enabled people – particularly children – to recognise imagery easily and create their own interpretations.

He once said: “I think it is because I spend a long time making my drawings as simple as possible, throwing lots away, before I reach that moment of recognition.

“What matters is reducing everything to its essence. Every shape captures the imagination, and I leave plenty of space for children’s imagination.”

Bruna was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands in August 1927, where he worked and lived for most of his life.

The city honoured him with a Lapel Pin in 1987, then later a Golden Lapel Pin in 2007, for “raising the city to new heights with his illustrious imagination”. The streets of the city were decorated with his colourful illustrations in celebration of Bruna’s 80th birthday.

A square in Utrecht was also devoted to Miffy and a bronze statue was erected of the distinctive, white rabbit.

Bruna, who authored his Miffy books as well as illustrated them, originally wanted to become a writer but is best known for his recognisable line drawings. He is said to have first envisaged stories in pictures before writing the text.

He was an avid cyclist, and used to cycle to his studio every day along Utrecht’s canals before retirement. He once said: “For me, happiness is cycling to my studio very early in the morning.”

Bruna died in his hometown Utrecht, and is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.

© Mercis bv
© Mercis bv
© Mercis bv

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