Organisation - December 19, 2016

Drawings by Fiep Westendorp discovered

Roelof Kleis

A series of unpublished drawings by Fiep Westendorp have been found in the depot of the Special Collections department of the library in Forum. These unique drawings illustrate ergonomics in horticulture.

© Fiep Amsterdam Ltd; Fiep Westendorp Illustrations

The 22 drawings were in a brown envelope that has been in the possession of the library since the Museum Historische Landbouwtechniek on the Mansholtlaan was closed. The envelope states the drawings were made by Pien Sprenger, the daughter of A.M. Sprenger, who was professor of Horticulture in Wageningen. He supposedly used these during his lectures. Per Liesbeth Missel, Curator Special Collections, they have been included in the catalogue as such.

Jip and Janneke
Last Saturday marked the 100th anniversary of illustrator Fiep Westendorp’s birth. She is renowned for her illustrations for the Jip and Janneke children’s stories by the Dutch author Annie M.G. Schmidt. The whole of 2017 will be all about a century of Fiep. During the run up to the festivities, Missel recalled the drawings in the library’s depot. These looked an awful lot like the ones made by Fiep Westendorp. She decided to have another look.


‘Earlier this month, I had the entire series converted into PDF documents and sent those to the Fiep Westendorp Foundation’, she says. The foundation had quickly made up their mind. ‘These have unmistakably been made by Fiep.’ Another indisputable evidence was found that advocates it was not Sprenger’s daughter, but Westendorp who made the illustrations. Missel found a handwritten text containing information about the drawings’ origins.

The prints were made in 1965 and had been commissioned by the Wageningen Instituut voor Tuinbouwtechniek (Institute for Horticultural Technology, ITT). The drawings were meant as illustrations for the instructional film Waarom zo? Enkele regels voor werkvereenvoudiging in de bloemisterij. (‘Why do it this way? Several rules for the simplification of work in floristry.’) The draft of the film’s credits is in the possession of the library. The credits state that the prints were made by Westendorp. They also mention that the film was commissioned by the Vereniging de Nederlandse Bloemisterij (Dutch Association of Floriculture).

These have unmistakably been made by Fiep
Liesbeth Missel, Curator Special Collections

With the help of other names contained in the credits, Missel investigated further. ‘The wife of one of them remembered that her husband, who has by now passed on, had contacted Westendorp at the time. They had chosen her, as someone at the institute knew her.’ Attempts to find the film have been unsuccessful so far. Missel doubts whether the film was ever produced at all.

FW.benut de zwaartekracht.jpg

Missel did find a booklet on the same subject as the film, ergonomics in horticulture. The booklet Naar werkvereenvoudiging in de bloemisterij (‘Towards a simplification of work in floristry’) was also made in 1965 and commissioned by the Dutch Association of Floriculture. Various chapter titles correspond to the titles of the illustrations. However, photos were used instead of the illustrations. Missel suspects the illustrations made by Westendorp were too frivolous for serious instruction material.

Image Collections
Missel claims that the discovery in the library’s depot is unique, because Westendorp was very careful with her original works. ‘She was keen on keeping them in her own charge. We are one of the few to have original drawings.’ Missel says that the 22 drawings (of 28 by 31 cm each) will certainly be included in an exposition next year. In the meantime, one can already view them in the Image Collections of Wageningen University & Research.