A Sad Day for Nijntje

Nijntje
I just saw the sad news about Dick Bruna, the creator of Nijntje/Miffy passing away yesterday. Discovering his work was one of the many joys I got out of living in Utrecht. As well as the Nijntje books and related pieces, he also did some great graphic design for other book covers. I picked up some of my favorites when I visited the Dick Bruna Huis (now Nijntje Museum).

I think I have one last Nijntje statue that I never shared. This one seems appropriate today, as it is half Nijntje and half Dick Bruna. It stands in front of the conservatory at Mariaplaats.
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It depends on the side, which one you see:
Dick Bruna Nijntje
Dick Bruna Nijntje
Dick Bruna Nijntje
At the base is a short poem dedicated to them both:
Dick Bruna Nijntje

RIP, Dick Bruna. You and your art will be missed.
world peace is possible

Rainbows and Nijntje

Rainbows and Nijntje
Sunday morning, while walking with Charlie, I thought I’d get another shot of the rainbow street crossing over by Vredenburg. It’s always good to see and the colors seem to pop a bit more after the rain.

Unfortunately, I only had my phone’s camera and I had a dog who could smell all the residual smells from the nearby market the day before, not to mention the aromas coming from the open door at the Starbucks within view, so I didn’t manage to get a good shot of the light that signals when to cross the street. Seriously, I had to drag Charlie out of the Starbucks doorway. And that was after having to drag him out of the Bruna doorway the day before. He’s never met a doorway he didn’t like and wasn’t determined to enter.

Anyway, back to the crossing light. It’s one of the famous ones using Nijntje (Miffy) to signal. You can get an idea of it, though. Cutest crossing lights. Ever.
Rainbows and Nijntje

1.5 Nijntjes

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While visiting the Centraal Museum the other week, I came across two more of the Nijntje/Miffy statues as interpreted by various artists. The first one, appropriately, now stands outside the Nijntje Museum, which is across the street from the Centraal Museum. (One ticket gets you into both museums.)

The second Nijntje is a bit harder to see (thus the 1/2), as I took a photo of it through a window in the museum. It stands in the newly renovated courtyard. This one is particularly interesting, as it’s about four Nijntjes creating one. Unfortunately, I don’t have any artist information for these, but it’s nice to see a few Nijntjes still hanging around her home city.

One Last Nijntje

Nijntje!
On the Jaarbeurs side of the train station there was yet another Nijntje on parade last summer. She had a view of the recently completed new town hall building. This splatter version of Nijntje (called Nijntje!) was by Jurriaan van Hall. His approach was like that of a toddler, tossing colorful plaster to create something between painting and sculpture, all the while paying homage to her playful character.
Nijntje!
Nijntje!
Nijntje!

Oma Nijn

Oma Nijn
I never finished posting some of the Nijntje statues that were dotted around the city last summer as part of the celebration of Nijntje’s (Miffy’s) 60th birthday. Seeing as today is Easter, I thought today might be a good day to post one of the image-heavy Nijntjes. This one is Oma Nijn (Grandma Rabbit) by artist Charlotte Dematons. Her version has Nijntje in a cozy cardigan featuring typical scenes of Dutch culture with Nijntje scattered throughout. I like the one where she and her friends are cycling through the tulip fields in both sunshine and rain. A bit like today! Which is your favorite?
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn

Multiplying Nijntjes

Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
The rabbits in Neude are multiplying.

As part of the celebrations of Nijntje/Miffy’s 60th birthday, statues — decorated by a variety of artists — are showing up all over the city. Our Thinker on a Rock rabbit has been joined by a version of Nijntje decorated by Klaas Gubbels. His work, titled Canto Ostinato, is inspired by a painting of his by the same name. He, like Nijntje’s creator, Dick Bruna, works primarily in two dimensional images, although in this case, two two dimensions have been applied to a three- dimensional form.

Hopefully this week I’ll get a chance to show you some of the other Nijntje statues around town. I’m missing a few, but may be able to catch a few this weekend if I’m vewwy vewwy quiet.
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje

Celebrating Nijntje (Miffy)

Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
While friends were visiting in November, I finally got around to seeing the dick bruna huis. Admission is included in your ticket to the Centraal Museum (which is across the street from the dick bruna house), but I had never gotten around to visiting in the past. Who is Dick Bruna, you’re possibly asking. Bruna is the creator of Nijntje, AKA Miffy, the illustrated rabbit who is celebrating her 60th birthday this year, with some festivities taking place as far away as Japan. As the Alphaville song goes, she’s “big in Japan”. Bruna is an Utrechter famous for his work as an illustrator, writer, and graphic designer, with work for all ages.

Although I didn’t grow up reading the Nijntje books, I have been aware of her for a number of years. Someone in the office building across the street from my office in New York even had a couple of Nijntje posters up in their window, so I often found myself looking at the adorable little rabbit while I tried to find inspiration for my own work. However, having neither a childhood connection to the books, nor children of my own, the dick bruna house was never high on my list of places to visit. It was always one of those things I figured I’d get around to eventually. Fortunately, having visitors is a great way to see those sites you otherwise put off.

As it turns out, it was announced just last week that the dick bruna house is going to be renovated and renamed as the Nijntje Museum, with the full focus being on the famous little rabbit. Work starts in early July and will likely run through December.

As it is, the site is already primarily focused on Nijntje, with walls full of the various books in a babel of languages, interactive play areas, and a large golden statue of Nijntje. It is definitely geared more toward children, but visually it’s still an interesting place and certainly worth a quick browse if you’ve already purchased admission to the Centraal Museum. I’m glad I did finally visit. If nothing else, I ended up with a great selection of postcard versions of some of Bruna’s book cover illustrations that I really love.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
The towering wall (one of three) full of the various Nijntje and friends stories, translated into numerous languages.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Beneath the books are a few listening stations and cute little seats for children to sit down and read and listen to the books.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
It’s not all Nijntje, though. There are also photos of Dick Bruna at work, as well as a few photos of Bruna with the king and queen, riding his bike in front of the Domtoren, and standing in front of the Rietveld-Schröder House.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
The interior is a great mix of white walls to show off the works, as well as kaleidoscopes of color in some of the rooms and passageways. And there’s always the golden Nijntje if you want a touch of glam …
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum

18 Things to See, Do, Taste, and Experience in Utrecht

klmmapI’m always singing the praises of Utrecht and encouraging people to visit this beautiful, historic, and vibrant city, so it only seems right that I make a handy map of some of the places and things visitors should see. So here’s a map of 18 places in Utrecht that you should see, including museums, sculptures, parks, restaurants (which, of course, includes Vino Veritas), and historic points of interest. It is, by no means, a complete listing and hopefully I’ll be able to add on to it as the spirit moves me. Did I leave out one of your favorite must-see spots in Utrecht? Tell me what you think is a must-see.

Thanks to KLM for doing the technical creation of this map for me, while letting me use my own words and photos. They were kind enough to let me focus on Utrecht, instead of Amsterdam, after I pointed out how quick and easy it is to get to Utrecht from Amsterdam. Fly into Schipol Airport with KLM and hop on one of the many trains to Utrecht. You’ll be here in just half an hour!

Art Meets Construction in Utrecht

One of the many nice things about living in Utrecht is that when plywood walls go up during restoration or renovation of a property, they often become points of visual interest in their own right. Certainly, when some of the university buildings along the Drift were undergoing renovation last year, the decorations that went up made an eye-catching and fun graphic story.

This time, walls are going up in the area behind the new Vredenburg music palace, where the old Hoog Catharijne shopping center is going under massive renovations and reconstructions.
Construction and Art
Edging the western side of the large square where the outdoor markets are held Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, this bit of urban art gets the kind of viewership numbers artists (and bloggers) dream about. After all, location, location, location!

Looking at each of the images and panels, there are some great characters and visuals to catch your imagination. One of the most famous is the red-hatted gnome on the far right. That’s Utrecht’s own KBTR (kabouter/gnome) who pops up in various spots around town for the past six or seven years. The rest of his out-of-this-world companions can be seen from right to left and represent a few other Utrecht symbols and institutions, such as the Nederland Film Festival and, of course, Nijntje. Any others you recognize?
KBTR VredenburgVredenbearsVredenburg KunstVredenijntjeVredenburg action shotvredenburg liftoff

Nijntje and Miffy

Nijntje/Miffy
The weather is still cold and grey, although the rain has held off for most of the day. Small blessings. However, I did notice this colourful window near the Stadhuis this afternoon, featuring Nijntje (AKA Miffy), the little rabbit created by Utrechter Dick Bruna. The weather may not be smile-inducing, but this window display above a children’s book/toy store certainly was.