Rien Poortvliet

Dutch painter, artist and beloved illustrator of gnomes

1932   -   1995

country of citizenship: Kingdom of the Netherlands
native language: Dutch
occupation: painter, writer
award received: Zilveren Anjer

Rien 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 followers of the Dutch Reformed Church 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.
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