Rien Poortvliet's works and life
Rien Poortvliet 's Biography
"Rien" Marinus Harm Poortvliet (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈrim ˈpoːrtflit]; 7 August 1932 – 15 September 1995) was a Dutch draughtsman and painter.
Born in Schiedam, he was best known for his drawings of animals and for "Gnomes" in the famous series of books provided with text by Wil Huygen and published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. of New York City.
Being a plasterer's son from Schiedam, making a living as an artist did not seem an option for Rien Poortvliet. His parents were strict Dutch Reformed and were opposed to the idea of their oldest son going to an art academy.
Rien's aptitude for drawing showed early on. After primary education the young Rien worked at an ad agency, where he could make some use of his talent. Rien Poortvliet began his artistic career as a graphics artist for magazines. Poortvliet spent two years in the Dutch navy and, as soon as he was old enough, he visited America. "What I learned about America, was that I wanted to go home." He also had talent for the advertising profession because after he had completed his draft time in the Navy he rose to senior manager at Lintas, Unilever's ad agency.
Rien Poortvliet illustrated children's books in his spare time, since the end of the 1950's. Since he also was a lover of nature and a passionate hunter, he also made illustrations for books about hunting. Rien took more pleasure in the work he did on the side for several publishers. He illustrated various books, among them works by Jaap ter Haar, Leonard Roggeveen and Godfried Bomans. He was also a passionate hunter, which led him to drawing various nature and hunting subjects written by one of his hunting buddies, Wil Huygen.
In 1968 his publisher suggested Rien became a full time illustrator, which he did. Unfortunately, there was not much work and in 1972 . Poortvliet was able to make a living as an independent illustrator. To supplement his income, Rien decided to publish the book himself. The book, titled "Hunting drawings", consisted purely of drawings and pastels and was about animal life and his beloved sport, hunting. The book sold well and in 1973 he published another one, …De Vossen Hebben Holen "The foxes have holes", also about wildlife. In this book his handwritten notes were published as well. Later on, he also made a similar work concerning the life of Jesus Christ.
Poortvliet saw himself as a "storyteller in drawings".
His drawings told the tale, and at most he added a short caption.
For years his works were published by Van Holkema en Warendorf in Bussum, where his Leven en werken van de Kabouter (co-authored by Wil Huygen, English title is "Gnomes") saw an astonishing 59 printings. With the Gnomes series Poortvliet acquired international fame. In 1976, Rien Poortvliet and his buddy Wil Huygen published "Life and Work of the Gnomes". Poortvliet was always somewhat flummoxed by the fact that The New York Times Best Seller List included the book in the "non-fiction" category. ''Why?'' he asked, ''Do they think there really are gnomes? More books of this little people followed, along with many others. This series took on a life of its own, and was turned into an animated series in 1985 David The Gnome.
His books were translated into English, French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Italian and other languages.
An extensive list of all his books can be found here >>.
After Rien's death, Wil Huygen continued publishing books written by himself, with many drawings and paintings Rien had left over from former works
Wil Huygen co-author De Kabouter.
Rien Poortvliet art techniques
Rien Poortvliet worked exclusively in water color, a medium that allowed him to produce fine works at great speed and with the depth of color and texture needed to capture fur, feather, wood, dirt, and the grinding cogs of history. "Sometimes I work with much water," he said. "Sometimes with a very dry brush. Sometimes with a little spit."
Poortvliet's eye for detail and his intuitive understanding of wildlife, dogs and landscape was without parallel, but he was somewhat deficient at observing the modern world. "I can paint for you any animal you want, including humans," he said. "I can paint an elephant from underneath, as if it were walking on a plate of glass above us. I have never seen this, but I can paint it. But, if you ask me to paint the dashboard of my Volkswagen, I would have to go out and look at it in the yard."
Fame and recognition
The general public was delighted with Rien Poortvliet's drawings. Some critics thought Poortvliet hypocritical since he painted beautiful nature scenes while being a fervent hunter. Yet he was elated to be the centre of attention. He did well on television with his goatee, his corduroy trousers and his chequered jackets. For a few years, Rien Poortvliet was a panel member in "Zo Vader, Zo Zoon" (a Dutch game show).
Rien Poortvliet found recognition when Prince Bernhard opened the Rien Poortvliet Museum in 1992. This museum stood in the old, historic Town Hall of Middelharnis, "Fortunately far away from the modern art gang in Amsterdam" as Poortvliet said in an interview. The Rien Poortvliet Museum in Middelharnis has now closed its doors to the public (December 16, 2006). Because of sharply reduced visitor numbers the museum could no longer meet its financial obligations. It has reopened on the island of Tiengemeten as per July 7, 2009.
His home was Soest, a village 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam where he lived with his wife, Corrie Bouman, and their collection of rabbits, dogs, cats, chickens, and farm stock. Rien Poortvliet died in Soest in 1995 of bone cancer at the age of 63. He was married to Corrie Bouman and they have two sons. His magnificent art lives on, a gift to us all.