Murder, mystery and skulduggery aren’t usually associated with Miffy’s creator Dick Bruna, but a new exhibition reveals a different side to the Dutch artist made famous by his little bunny character.
From 10 March – 19 August 2018 at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, ‘The Dark Side of Dick Bruna’ presents an overview of Bruna’s early career in the 1950s and ‘60s designing paperback book covers for the most popular crime thrillers of the day.
Using minimal graphic elements and conferring significance on the tiniest details, Bruna aimed to stir the imagination, build suspense and instil fear in the reader from the very offset.
Featuring creepy titles such as ‘The whisper in the dark’ and ‘The Widow in the Willows’, the exhibition’s 350 book covers, sketches, posters and collages reveal how Bruna achieved this, creating a controlled visual language throughout the process.
Working closely alongside each crime writer, Bruna depicted the personality of their detective character by focusing on their idiosyncrasies, often alongside a sinister object from the murky worlds they inhabited.
For George Simenon’s commissaire Maigret, his iconic pipe together with just a single clue were all that was needed to convey the mood and big questions worrying the detective. For Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, a trigger-happy, adventurous hero, Bruna developed a wire figure who always seems to be in motion. Havank’s inspector Charles C.M. Carlier was presented as a man of precision stepping resolutely across the cover, calmly smoking a cigar.
This early part of Bruna’s career spanned 1955 to 1970, during which he designed more than 2,000 covers all of which were published in the Black Bear series by his father’s company A.W. Bruna & Zoon. This was a period when paperback sales were booming across Europe (Penguin enjoyed equivalent success in the UK). In the Netherlands, railway station kiosks were a key purchase point, making the covers crucial to inspire impulse buys. Dick Bruna’s craftmanship and eye for narrative ensured his designs made a major contribution to the distinctiveness of the series.
www.kunsthal.nl Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 – 17:00, Sundays & Public Holidays 11:00 – 17:00.
For more press info and/or high res images please contact the Kunsthal Rotterdam’s communication department:
Sabine Parmentier, telephone: (+31)(0)104400321, mobile phone: (+31)(0)652636232; Mariëtte Maaskant, telephone: (+31)(0)104400323;
Alison Vellacott, Highlight PR email@example.com 07754 834035
The innocent little black bear, the familiar logo designed by Dick Bruna for the Black Bear series, came to lead a life of its own, featuring on posters as well as on the spine of the paperbacks. It is tempting to suppose that the name was chosen as a counterpart to Miffy, the little white rabbit created in the same year. However, it was while Jaap Romijn, director of the Bruna firm, was looking for an appropriate title for a new series of paperbacks together with Dick and his father Abs in 1954, that he hit upon the little black bear via ‘Bruna’ and ‘brown’. Dick Bruna was very fond of his black bear. He regarded him as his alter ego and gave the title The bear is dead to the book that he wanted to be published after his death in February 2017.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the Kunsthal Rotterdam and Mercis bv., with special thanks to Central Museum, Utrecht.
Dick Bruna, Design poster for the Black Bear series, Collection Central Museum, Utrecht ©Dick Bruna, loan from Mercis bv.
Dick Bruna [Black Bear 675] 1968, sketch design book cover The Saint plays with Fire, Leslie Charteris. Collection Central Museum, Utrecht ©Dick Bruna, loan from Mercis bv.