A work visit to the International Youth Library in 2016 changed the way I thought of children’s books completely. It was an exhibition of works by Dutch and Flamish illustrators. I don’t know under which stone I had been hiding until that moment, I’m afraid I had never really thought about the topic, but seeing those artworks made me realize for the first time how much amazing work of art is need to fill a book with illustrations. There were original oil on canvas, watercolors, pencil drawings, lithographs and more in that exhibition. Since then, I’ve been following some great contemporary illustrators, especially from the Netherlands and Flanders. I’ll add some links to their Instagram accounts below. Also, I began to dive into all those great artists from the Golden Age of Illustration, a period from roughly the 1880’s till the 1920’s that in which book and magazine illustration excelled. Advances in printing technology permitted accurate and high quality reproduction of art, at much lower cost than before.
This was the time of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Warwick Goble, Ivan Bilibin, Kay Nielsen, Kate Greenaway and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, just to name a few, artists that are still admired today and have influenced many later artists. I’ll never get tired looking at their images of fairies and wonderlands! I need to mention Anton Pieck, Rien Poortvliet and Rie Cramer from the Netherlands, too. Today, I have filled an entire shelf with books that I just bought for their illustrations.
Check out these amazing Dutch and Belgian artists: