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Rien Poortvliet in 1978
7 August 1932|
|Died||15 September 1995
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. 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 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 subjects.
By the end of the 1960s, Poortvliet was able to make a living as an independent illustrator. To supplement his income, he made a book out of his drawings and watercolours based on his hunting experiences. 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. This series took on a life of its own, and was turned into an animated series in 1985.
His books were translated into English, French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Italian and other languages.
Fame and recognition
The general public was delighted with 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, Poortvliet was a panel member in "Zo Vader, Zo Zoon" (a Dutch game show).
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.
In popular culture
- Poortvliet is referred to as a 'beloved illustrator of gnomes' in the popular cartoon comedy Archer (season 4, episode 12 'Sea Tunt part 1')
- Jachttekeningen (1972) (English: Hunting Sketches) ISBN 90-269-4801-8
- ...de Vossen hebben holen (1973) ISBN 90-269-4949-9
- The living forest: a world of animals (1979) ISBN 0-8109-0911-1
- Hij was een van ons (1974) ISBN 90-269-4947-2
- He Was One of Us: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth (1994) ISBN 0-8010-7135-6
- Te Hooi en te gras (1975) ISBN 90-269-6296-7
- The Farm Book (1994) ISBN 0-8109-0817-4
- Leven en werken van de Kabouter (1976, with writer Wil Huygen) ISBN 90-269-4958-8
- Het brieschend paard (1978) ISBN 90-269-4968-5
- Horses (1996) ISBN 1-55670-430-5
- Van de hak op de tak (1980) (autobiographical) ISBN 90-269-4306-7
- Dutch Treat: The Artist's Life, Written and Painted by Himself (1983) ISBN 0-517-41535-6
- De oproep der kabouters (1981, with writer Wil Huygen) ISBN 90-269-4799-2
- Secrets of the Gnomes (1982) ISBN 0-8109-1614-2
- De ark van Noach, of ere wie ere toekomt (1985) ISBN 90-242-3206-6
- Noah's Ark (1992) 08-109-1371-2
- Langs het tuinpad van mijn vaderen (1987) (about his ancestors' supposed lives) ISBN 90-242-4800-0
- In my grandfather's house (1988) ISBN 0-8109-1126-4
- Het boek van Klaas Vaak en het ABC van de slaap (1988, with writer Wil Huygen) ISBN 90-242-4499-4
- The Book of the Sandman and the Alphabet of Sleep (1989) ISBN 0-8109-1524-3
- De tresoor van Jacob Jansz. Poortvliet (1991) ISBN 90-242-7171-1
- Daily Life in Holland in the Year 1566 (1992) ISBN 0-8109-3309-8
- Braaf (1992) ISBN 90-242-6903-2
- Dogs (1996) ISBN 0-8109-8140-8
- Aanloop (1993) (about man and nature throughout the centuries) ISBN 90-242-6937-7
- Journey to the Ice Age: Mammoths and Other Animals of the Wild (1994) ISBN 0-8109-3648-8
- Kabouter Spreekwoordenboek (posthumously in 1996, with writer Wil Huygen) (English: Book of Gnome Proverbs) ISBN 90-242-7882-1
- Het Kabouterkookboek (posthumously in 2003, with writer Wil Huygen) (English: Gnome Cookbook) ISBN 90-242-8977-7
- Tussen gaap & slaap (posthumously in 2003, revised edition of Het boek van Klaas Vaak en het ABC van de slaap) ISBN 90-435-0753-9