Popular Bible Artist Kees de Kort Has Passed Away

Kees de Kort, Bible Artist, Dies

Kees de Kort, a Dutch artist who helped shape the minds of generations of Dutch and German youngsters via his illustrations of biblical tales, has passed away in his native country. He was 87.

Bold and straightforward, De Kort’s interpretations of biblical stories were able to captivate readers. His characters are believable and approachable. De Kort once said that he aimed to depict a Christ who could ride a bike so that he might be a plausible part of the contemporary environment that youngsters in Holland were growing up in.

As they got older, they realized that “Kees de Kort’s children’s Bible is one of the few that remains with you,” as journalist Lodewijk Dros put it.

As the tragic news of De Kort’s death spread on August 19, mourners posted tributes including their favorite photos of the artist online. Several others thought of a specific image: a depiction of Bartimaeus, the blind man who is healed by Jesus on the way to Jericho (Mark 10:46–52).

Theologian Hanna van Dorssen of the Dutch Protestant Church stated, “I still see that image before me: that man shrieking with his mouth wide open.” How evocative!

Curator of Kampen’s Icon Museum Lisbeth van Es agreed that the image exemplifies De Kort’s signature style in its entirety.

With muted tones and uncluttered designs. At first glance, it’s easy to grasp the core of his message. That picture has become a cultural symbol,” she said. Everyone who grew up with De Kort’s drawings will tell you the same thing: They will stay with you forever.

On December 2nd, 1934, De Kort was born in the town of Nijkerk, located about 60 kilometers east of Amsterdam. It was a predominantly Protestant neighborhood, but his parents were devoted Catholics. Since he was an adult, he had no problem visiting churches of both faiths.

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In the year 2020, he declared, “I’m a practicing Christian.” Morning and night, I say my prayers. No, I’m not a religious extremist. As regularly as I attend a Catholic service, I attend a Calvinist, Reformed, or Lutheran service.

At age 27, he entered the secular world of technical drawing and began his professional life. However, by the time he was 30, he had grown bored with his job and was always thinking about what else there was to do with his life. The Dutch-Flemish Bible Society was holding a contest for a proposed series of picture books for children with intellectual disabilities, and a coworker of his had told him about it.

Late in the game, De Kort sent in just one artwork, depicting the Holy Family’s arrival in Bethlehem. Children’s doctors and psychologists and Protestant ministers and Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis all agreed on him as the winner.

After being awarded the contract, De Kort immediately set out to develop a signature look for his biblical artwork. He researched the artwork of kids and enlisted the help of his four- and seven-year-old boys to shed light on the meanings behind their creations. He saw that kids typically arranged their subject matter along a horizontal plane, with human beings in the middle and viewed from below. They opted with bold hues and geometric simplicity, yet layered on the expressive details. All those things become part of his personal style.

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Some critics have compared De Kort’s artwork to the contemporary art revival of woodcuts by HAP Grieshaber and the “primitivism” of Pablo Picasso. The Jewish surrealist Marc Chagall was the artist most often used to describe his work.

De Kort felt there were excessive analogies. He addressed Die Zeit with, “Chagall?” Another universe.

He said that the Bible served as an inspiration for his works. He found great enjoyment in reading them.

War, famine, sickness, corruption, oppression, slavery; these are depicted in the Bible, he explained, adding that “all kinds of horrors” happen in the book. Friendship, solace, and the knowledge that God’s love for us is unwavering are the themes of these narratives.

In 1967, What the Bible Tells Us Volume 1 was released. The book’s dimensions were around five inches by five inches. De Kort went on to create 27 more in the decades that followed; the Bible Society would choose the stories, but he was allowed to draw them anyway he saw fit.

At the international book fair in Leipzig in 1977, one volume was recognized as the finest textbook of that year. One more was named the best children’s book of 1988.

Authored anonymously by Bible Society employees, the short passage has been translated into 90 other tongues. In 1992, all 28 Dutch volumes of What the Bible Tells Us were consolidated into one volume. There was a German translation released in 1995 under the title It Began in Paradise.

Churches also sought out de Kort to create artwork for them. At 2017, he completed ten drawings for the Vatican and ten pieces that were subsequently made into stained glass windows in Mühltal, Germany and Assen, Netherlands, respectively.

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More than a dozen museums and galleries have featured his work, which has received widespread acclaim. The Icon Museum in Klampen displayed his work alongside ancient Catholic and Eastern Orthodox icons in 2019, arguing that De Kort’s art was iconic not merely in the sense of being remembered, but also in the sense of connecting spectators to a spiritual reality.

As Van Es put it, “an icon is the true depiction of the sacred.” The spirit of the biblical tales lives on in his works. … In my opinion, his book is a literal translation of the Bible. Many works of religious art are intended to serve as metaphors, explanations, or illustrations. Between the biblical narrative and the artwork, there are intermediate steps. This isn’t going to work for De Kort.

De Kort, for his part, said that he borrowed a great deal about visual narrative from Catholic icons, while he also viewed his characters as more down-to-earth and rooted, or “tough Protestants.”

Towards the end of his life, De Kort painted pigs as part of another earthy artistic endeavor. Since illustrating the parable of the Prodigal Son in the 1970s, he has been considering how to portray such characters, he added. They also brought back fond memories of his youth.

He said that the farmers who lived nearby maintained several pigs. They’ve always piqued my interest. Pigs are fantastic creatures.

In December, an exhibition of De Kort’s art will open at Amsterdam’s Bijbels Museum.

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My Passion for The Gospel bought about this great Platform.. I love to share the Good News. That's my PASSION. I don't believe the Gospel should be boring. Nobelie is so exclusive. You won't find what we offer any where else. You ask a friend.

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