Fiep Westendorp

Fiep Westendorp

Fiep WestendorpSHEEP IN THE BIG CITY creator Mo Willems, who recently picked up his second Caldecott Honor for KNUFFLE BUNNY,writes in to let me know about another foreign “Mary Blair”. Mo writes:

You mention the “French Mary Blair”… Do you know the “Dutch Mary Blair”, Fiep Westendorp? Perhaps Holland’s greatest illustrator, her quirky, vibrant drawings spent half a century in the center of mainstream Dutch cultural life. She started out as a newspaper illustrator, but made her name drawing and painting a series of homespun books for young people (somewhere between picture books and chapter books) by Annie M.G. Schmidt. Schmidt’s writing is sweet and folksy, but Fiep’s illustrations make the stories come alive.

Jip and Janneke, two of her silhouetted characters who live in a full color world are national treasures and as ubiquitous in Holland as Tintin is in Belgium. Check out one of many sites devoted to her stuff HERE.

I grew up with Fiep’s work. I had stacks of her books written in indecipherable Dutch but filled with immediately recognizable, emotive drawings that made me want to draw, and to draw as I do. Fiep died a few years back just as Amsterdam mounted a series of retrospective exhibits. Americans will be able to see some cool originals this winter when the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art mounts a show on Dutch Picture Book Illustrators this winter (the show, I’m told, is going to travel to NYC in December as well). Her stuff is well worth checking out, and if you ever go to Holland you should be sure to check out her retrospective book collection “Getekend: Fiep Westendorp (Drawn: Fiep Westendorp)”.