art by Peter van Dongen
Rampokan - 'Java'

Peter van Dongen is a Dutch illustrator, commercial artist and graphic novelist from Amsterdam. He is known for his use of the "Clear Line" drawing style in the tradition of Hergé and E.P. Jacobs. Despite being active since the 1980s, the meticulous Van Dongen has a small but widely praised oeuvre. His masterpiece is the graphic novel series 'Rampokan', in which he explores history of the Dutch Indies (nowadays Indonesia), the land of Van Dongen's ancestors.

Early life and career
Born in Amsterdam in 1966, Van Dongen graduated as advertising artist from the Amsterdam Graphic School. He published his first comics in amateur and alternative magazines like Rebel Comix and De Balloen in the early 1980s. In 1986-1987, he made the promotional strip 'Prince en Buster', which appeared on the back-pages of Wordt Vervolgd magazine and was meant to attract subscribers. During the early 1990s, Peter van Dongen worked as an assistant for Gerrit de Jager, creator of 'De Familie Doozon'. One of his contributions was drawing the 1992 safe sex brochure with the feature's Doortje Doorzon character for the STD Foundation Utrecht.

In 1990 he published his debut graphic novel 'Muizentheater', a gripping tale of two working class lads growing up in Amsterdam during the Depression years. A nice feature of 'Muizentheater' is that it is one of the very few books about Amsterdam that does not feature any canals - van Dongen hates clichés. 'Muizentheater' earned Van Dongen the Dutch Stripschapprijs for the Best Comic Book of the Year in 1991. 

Rebel Comix by Peter van Dongen
Early work by Van Dongen for Rebel Comix #2.

Van Dongen continued to work as a commercial illustrator in the 1990s and it took almost a decade before he published a new book. This was 'Rampokan-Java' (1998), a tale about the independence struggle in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia, and it was even better received than his debut. For the plot, he relied heavily on the lives of his mother and grandmother. The story was told in a stunning Clear Line style with sepia coloring - the echo of Hergé's colonial classic 'Tintin in Africa' was constantly there in the background. 'Rampokan' was co-designed by Joost Swarte and earned both author and publisher the 1999 Dutch Prize for Best Book Design. In 2004, the second part, 'Rampokan-Celebes', appeared. In 2005, he organized a series of expositions with artwork by Indonesian artists like Tita and Anto Motulz, held on several locations in Java.

Rampokan Celebes, by Peter van Dongen
Rampokan - 'Celebes'.

Drie Dagen in Rio & Familieziek
His comic 'Drie Dagen in Rio' ('Three Days In Rio') appeared in 2013 through Oog & Blik/De Bezige Bij, followed by an English edition at Grant International. It was a comic book in commission about the travels that Lennart Björk, the owner of the Gant clothing brand, had made during his younger years. Impressed by 'Rampokan', Dutch novelist Adriaan van Dis approached Van Dongen for an adaptation of his semi-autobiographical novel 'Familieziek'. The novel is about the struggles of a traumatized family after moving from the Dutch Indies to the Netherlands. The artist accepted and spent nearly ten years working on the project, in a regular cooperation with the author. Van Dongen initially used elements from his own family background, but Van Dis opted against it. He was however free to take a more liberal approach to the novel than for instance Dick Matena does in his adaptations of literary works. The book was released in 2017 to wide media coverage.

Blake & Mortimer
Since 2018 Peter Van Dongen and Teun Berserik collaborate on the classic series 'Blake & Mortimer', originally created by the late Edgar P. Jacobs. With Yves Sente as scriptwriter, Van Dongen and Berserik illustrated the dyptich 'La Vallée des Immortels' ('The Valley Of The Immortels', 2018-2019). Their next album, 'Le Dernier Espadon' ('The Last Swordfish', 2021), is scripted by Jean Van Hamme and a direct sequel to Jacobs' original dyptich 'Le Secret de l'Espadon' ('The Secret of the Swordfish', 1946-1949).

Other graphic activities
Van Dongen's artwork appears in magazines and papers like Onze Taal, Het Parool, VPRO Gids, Vrij Nederland and NRC Handelsblad. Among Van Dongen's commercial clients are DSW, Martinair, and Capgemini, for which he makes the comic 'Capman en Femini'. He has also made an oil painting for The National Maritime Museum of Amsterdam.

In 1991 Van Dongen won the Dutch Stripschapprijs for 'Best Comic Book of the Year', with 'Muizentheater'. On 19 January 2018 Peter van Dongen won the Stripschapprijs again, though this time for his entire oeuvre. It was awarded to him on 31 March-1 April, during the Stripdagen in Utrecht. 

folder by Peter van Dongen

Series and books by Peter van Dongen you can order today:


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