Dutch artist and author Dick Bruna, whose simply drawn little white rabbit turned into an international best-seller, died peacefully in his sleep Thursday in the central Dutch city of Utrecht. He was 89.
His Dutch publisher, Mercis, made the announcement Friday.
Bruna was born into a family of Dutch publishers in 1927 and that’s where he began his career as an illustrator. He created book covers for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series and the Inspector Maigret thrillers by Georges Simonen.
Bruna’s bunny, known as Nijntje in Dutch and Miffy in English, first came to life 62 years ago, as a way for Bruna to entertain his young son on vacation. Miffy became the central character in 32 books, winning adoration from not only children but also adult art lovers. The Miffy books have sold more than 85 million copies and were translated into more than 50 languages.
Bruna also chose to publish his books in a square format.
“He thought that size was really good for two little children’s hands, and he loved the visual impact, too,” longtime friend Marja Kerkhof told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Kerkhof said the simple design of all his characters – pigs, bears, clowns – is what makes his books stand out on the shelf. Bruna stuck to a simple color palette and limited his Miffy books to 12 pages each.
“He goes to the essence of things. Even today, if you see it in the store you would think, ‘hey this looks different to a lot of other things out there.’ There is no clutter, it’s all very clear,” Kerkhof said.
Miffy and her fellow characters aren’t just in books; fridge magnets, lamps, telephones, school backpacks, pencils and many more items are branded with Bruna’s creations.
Miffy the movie was released in 2013. The rabbit also starred in a television show called “Miffy and Friends.”
All told, the Bruna empire of characters earns more than $180 million annually with more than 10,000 products created by the 250 Miffy licensees around the world.
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