Mannetje Bagatel

Eppo Doeve was an Indonesian illustrator and cartoonist who spent his youth in his home country under Dutch colonial rule, but most of his adulthood in the Netherlands. He was a political cartoonist and illustrated many book covers, advertisements and Dutch banknotes. Doeve also gained a high reputation as a painter. As a comics artist he created two text comics ('Het Mannetje Bagatel', 1946, and 'Kleine Isar, de Vierde Koning', 1962) with novelist Bertus Aafjes as scriptwriter. A versatile artist, he drew tremendous respect from many of his colleagues in the field, despite never having had any academic art training.

Mannetje Bagatel, by Eppo Doeve

Joseph Ferdinand Doeve was born in 1907 in Bandung, Indonesia, which was still a Dutch colony at the time. He was the son of a civil servant. Both Doeve's parents were Dutch, but of multiracial descent. He studied at the Catholic School of the Ursuline Sisters and decided to follow this up by studying argonomy at the Landbouwhoogeschool in Wageningen in the Netherlands. Even at a young age Doeve showed artistic promise and was once asked to design a film poster for a local theater in Bandung. Yet he didn't consider his graphic talent all that exceptional and instead dreamed of becoming a tea planter. After a long journey Doeve arrived in the Netherlands where he made several illustrations for the student magazine of the Wagenische Studentencorps. Unfortunately the Wall Street stock market crashed in 1929, which had a severe global economic crisis as a result. The Great Depression also caused the collapse of the Indonesian tea market, which completely changed Doeve's future. Since he liked the Netherlands he wanted to be able to stay there and choose for a graphic career instead. He'd already earned some income at the Amsterdam advertising bureau De la Mar and kept busy illustrating advertisements for them.

In 1933 Doeve became a political cartoonist for the magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. After three years he moved to The Haagsche Post where he worked as a freelance artist. He published illustrations in De Radiobode, the official magazine of the Dutch radio broadcasting company AVRO. One of his colleagues there was Eelco ten Harmsen van der Beek, from whom he learned a lot of valuable skills. Doeve was an illustrator for 'Paul van Vlaanderen' serials, alternating with Henk Gijsbers and Henk Albers. His graphic work also appeared in Het Handelsblad and De Telegraaf, and after World War II in Vrij Nederland too. His longest association was with Elseviers Weekblad (later Elsevier magazine), for which he made cartoons from 1946 until his death in 1983.


Advertisement for the "Milk brigade" by Eppo Doeve. Drawn to promote drinking more milk the illustration mostly features Dutch sport champions and a few other media celebrities. In the top right we see Marten Toonder and Joop Geesink (1960)

Doeve designed murals, theatrical sets and costumes, stamps, portraits, paintings and sculptures. He made beautiful advertisement posters for various companies. Two of the most famous were the waiter carrying a plate with Heineken beer and the penguins promoting the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. Doeve's drawings livened up the covers of many pocket novels published by Prisma. Yet most Dutch people in the 1950s knew him best for designing a new set of paper bills. Each bank note sported the head of a famous person from Dutch history, like Hugo De Groot (10 guilders), Herman Boerhaave (20 guilders), Christiaan Huygens (25 guilders), Desiderius Erasmus (100 guilders), and Rembrandt van Rijn (1000 guilders). Later in life Doeve even designed parodies of these bills, depicting the head of soccer icon Johan Cruyff or Dutch folklore character Zwarte Piet. Doeve was an outstanding graphic talent, despite never having been to the art academy. He was ambidextrous and could even draw upside down, if necessary. Quite amazing for a complete autodidact he won several awards for his work too. In 1955 he received the National Outdoor Advertising Award and was knighted in the Order of Oranje-Nassau (1973). Doeve received so much assignments that he never had to worry about money. The only downside was that he mostly worked for other people, rather than create something out of his own free will.

Mannetje Bagatel, by Eppo Doeve
Original strip of 'Mannetje Bagatel' with indications for the screens

Doeve ventured in comics too, twice illustrating narratives by famous Dutch novelist and poet Bertus Aafjes. In 1946 their comic strip 'Het Mannetje Bagatel', a fairy tale in comics format. appeared in De Volkskrant. It ran from 4 June until 7 October 1940 (from 17 September onwards under the title 'Bagatel's Kinder-cabaret'). Doeve and Aafjes returned to the comics medium fourteen years later with 'Kleine Isar, de Vierde Koning' (1962) in Elseviers Weekblad. 'Kleine Isar' was a Christmas comic revolving around Isar, the fourth king never mentioned in the story about The Three Kings. While Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar are in time to find the newborn baby Jesus Isar always arrives too late at each important event, much to his frustration. Doeve wasn't the only comics artist Aafjes wrote scripts for. In 1948 he also collaborated with Piet Worm. Book publications of 'Kleine Isar' have appeared in 1963 and 1979. It also appeared in the Belgian comics magazine Ohee (issues 36-37, 1963) and ran in Samedi Jeunesse under the title 'Isar - Le Petit Roi Mage' (1964).


Kleine Isar

By appearing on radio, television and in printed media Eppo Doeve was one of the more recognizable graphic artists to the general Dutch public at the time. He was frequently invited to make drawings during live broadcasts of TV game shows like 'Telemimiek', 'Eén van de Acht' and 'Sterallures'. Together with writer Alexander Pola (part of the team of the satirical comedy show 'Farce Majeure'), Doeve appeared in episodes of the NCRV news shows 'Attentie' (1957-1968) and 'Hier en Nu' (1967-1996), where Pola told a "political fable", while Doeve illustrated his narrative.


Cartoon for Elseviers Weekblad (1978)

Doeve passed away in 1981 at the age of 73. He was highly respected among fellow artists and a strong influence on people like Marten Toonder, Rudy van Giffen, Jan Kruis, Martin Lodewijk, Peter van Straaten and Fiep Westendorp. For those interested in his life and career the book 'Ter Herinnering Eppo Doeve' (1907-1981) by Jop Euwijk is highly recommended.

Eppo Doeve

Eppo Doeve posts on De Rommeldamsche Courant

Series en boeken door Eppo Doeve op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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