Willem Sandberg

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Willem Sandberg
Willem Sandberg en Ossip Zadkine (1965).jpg
Willem Sandberg (l) and Ossip Zadkine (1965)
Born Jonkheer Willem Jacob Henri Berend Sandberg
(1897-10-24)24 October 1897
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Died 9 April 1984(1984-04-09)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Known for Typographer,
Graphic designer
Waterlooplein metro station featuring an example of Sandberg's typography

Jonkheer Willem Jacob Henri Berend Sandberg (1897–1984) known as Willem Sandberg was a Dutch typographer museum curator, and member of the Dutch resistance during World War II.

He was born in Amersfoort, the Netherlands in 1897 and studied art in Amsterdam. He became a follower of the Mazdaznan movement. As a young man he travelled, serving as an apprentice to a printer in Herrliberg, Switzerland. In 1927 he visited Vienna, where he studied Otto Neurath's Isotype system. He continued visiting the Dessau Bauhaus and meeting Naum Gabo.

Returning to Amsterdam he started work as a graphic designer utilising his printing skills and Neurath's Isotype system. In 1928 he started a long relationship with the Stedelijk Museum and in 1932 became a member of VANK, the Dutch Society for Arts and Crafts. He soon joined the committee which determined the exhibitions of the museum. From 1937 to 1941 he was the museum's curator of modern art. During the Second World War, Sandberg was active in the Dutch resistance movement and prepared forged documents for Jews and others wanted by the Gestapo.[1] Other prominent individuals in the Raad van Verzet (Resistance Council) were: painter and author Willem Arondeus, sculptor Gerrit van der Veen, cellist Frieda Belinfante, and composer and conductor Jan van Gilse.[2] Within a short while, the Nazis began to expose the false documents by comparing the names with those in the local population registry. To hinder the Nazis, on 27 March 1943, Sandberg was among those who took part in the planning of the bombing of the Amsterdam Public Records Office. Thousands of files were destroyed, and the attempt to compare forged documents with the registry was hindered. Arondeus and ten others were later arrested and executed by firing squad. [3] Sandberg spent fifteen months in hiding and avoided arrest. His wife and son, however, were arrested and incarcerated for several months.[4] For his participation in the resistance movement and helping to save the lives of Jews during the war, Sandberg was recognized as Righteous Among The Nations on 26 November 1968.[5]

During his tenure as curator of the Stedelijk Museum he expanded the museum and developed new exhibition techniques, for which he gained international renown. He applied his graphic design and typography skills to over 300 catalogues. Sandberg retired from his position as curator in 1962.

In his retirement he served on the committees for the Beaubourg in Paris and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Willem Sandberg has also given his name to the master degree's design and art school Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam, started 1997 (part of Rietveld Academie)


  • 'Presentation of Vision '67:Willem Sandberg' in Design Issues, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring, 1986), pp. 64–77, MIT Press

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