Pietjes avontuur in Afrika, by Huib
'Pietjes avontuur in Afrika' (Kleine Wij, 1937).

Huib de Ru was a Dutch ornamental artist, stained glass artist, painter and draughtsman from Haarlem. He had a strong affiliation with the early 20th century workers' movement, and was an artist of comics serials for the socialist children's magazine Kleine Wij in the 1930s. Nonetheless he was best known for his more monumental works, initially made in cooperation with his atelier partner Nico Schrier.

Early life and education
Huibert Bernardus Wilhelmus de Ru was born in 1902 in Utrecht as the eldest of three sons of house painter Huibert Hendrik de Ru and Johanna Jansje Leen. From 1912 on, the family lived in Spaarndam, near Haarlem, where Huib developed a passion for the flora and fauna of the polder and dune areas. He made detailed sketches of the plants and flowers in his notebook. A couple of years later he enrolled at Haarlem's School of Architecture, Decorative Arts and Craftmanship ("School voor Bouwkunde, Versierende Kunsten en Kunstambachten"), where he studied from 1915 to 1920. He had his first job as a volunteer in Willem Bogtman's large stained-glass atelier (1920-1926), while designing advertisements and pamphlets on the side. 

Stained glass Atelier De Vonk
De Ru then set up his own stained glass atelier together with his colleague Nico Schrier (1900-1989). They called their firm De Vonk, and later operated under the name Atelier Schrier En De Ru. They initially set up shop in the shed of Schrier's house in Heemstede, but moved to Haarlem in 1930 due to the company's rapid growth. The partnership lasted until 1946. De Ru and Schrier designed many leaded and stained glass windows for the new private houses which were built in Haarlem-Noord, but also for religious buildings and the 1935 Flora flower exhibition in Heemstede. De Vonk furthermore developed windows for the Troelstra-oord, a holiday retreat for the working class in Beekbergen, established in 1927. Besides their own creations, the duo constructed windows designed by Albert Hahn Jr, W. A. van der Walle, Elie Smalhout, J. A. Bijvoet and Max Nauta. Many designs for schools and factories represented socialist ideals, but the atelier also made stained glass portraits in commission.


Poster for the Dutch Association of Trade Unions (N.V.V.), 1933.

Socialist movement
Huibert de Ru was closely associated with the workers' movement. This was not only reflected in his window designs, but also in his active membership of the socialist party S.D.A.P. De Ru felt ideologically obligated to participate in the "cultural elevation of the working class". He designed pamphlets for International Workers' Day, banners for the Instituut voor Arbeiders Ontwikkeling ("Institute for Workers Development") and contributed to the magazine De Stem van de Arbeid. A recurring theme in his work was the social-democratic "Plan of Labour" (1933-1940), which aimed at promoting industrialization, reducing unemployment and nationalizing industries. His lithographs of the German poet Goethe and Haarlem's Oude Bavo church found their way many workers houses. De Ru additionally created and performed shadow plays in cooperation with the Amsterdam-based artist Fré Cohen.


De Ru's Hitler cartoon. 1937.

Political cartoons
In addition to his daytime job, Huib de Ru made political cartoons for the satirical magazine De Notenkraker (until 1936) and the SDAP party magazine Vrijheid, Arbeid, Brood (1933-1940). In early 1937 the latter magazine printed one of his cartoons with the caption "The carnival in Berlin has begun - a costly party without much fun". It depicted Hitler as a carnivalesque Arab, while Göring and Goebbels are dancing with the symbolizations of Slander, Madness and Lies. The drawing referred to Germany sending its troops to Spanish Morocco to support the Spanish army. The copy of Vrijheid, Arbeid, Brood was confiscated because it "offended a befriend head of state". During the war, De Ru had to defend himself again over the challenged cartoon to the German oppressor. In May 1940, the artist burned many of his political drawings in the backgarden of his house.

comic art by Huib
'Van het elfje, dat naar Amerika vloog'.

Kleine Wij
Less known were the comic serials he made in the period 1937-1938 for "Wij, voor onze meisjes en jongens" (later renamed to Kleine Wij), the children's supplement of the socialist magazine Wij, published by De Arbeiderspers. He signed them with simply "Huib", and the texts were most likely written by one of the paper's editors. 'Kabouter Grijphand' was about a gnome who grabbed everything he got a hold of, including the leg of a giant bird. The bird flies away and drops the little man in a large tree, after which he is quickly cured of his tendencies! 'Pietjes avontuur in Afrika' was a longer adventurous serial set in Africa, while 'Kabouter Jokkebrok' told the story of yet another gnome with a bad habit. Everytime the man told a lie, his belly grew. In the end he had to carry it around on a trolley. Among Huib's other stories for Kleine Wij were 'De geschiedenis van Jantje', 'Van het elfje, dat naar Amerika vloog' and 'Pluisjes vele avonturen'. Other illustrators working for Kleine Wij were Priel, Rein Stuurman, Henk Rotgans and Toby Vos.


'Kabouter Grijpgraag'.

Post-war activities
After the war, De Ru and Schrier parted ways. Schrier continued the stained glass atelier, while De Ru moved on to design posters and floats for local events. De Ru was additionally for hire as a portrait artist and muralist, while he was also a critic for newspapers. Between 1938 and 1940 he had already commented on theatrical shows in the daily Het Volk. Between 1946 and 1948 he wrote many reviews of expositions held in the Frans Hals Museum. He resumed his work as a political cartoonist in the magazine Met Volle Zeilen, and was an illustrator for De Stem van de Arbeid. He served as board member of artistic assocations like Kunst Zij Ons Doel (1951-1953) and the Federation of Visual Artists Assocations ("Federatie van Beeldende Kunstenaars Verenigingen", 1953-1958).

De Ru specialized in sandblasted glass windows, making both small decorations and large reliefs for factories, schools and offices, while he also designed new stained glass windows for religious buildings. Later in life he found a new passion in metal wall decorations. From 1960 on he was one of the artists for a series of slides based on the New Testament for the Docete Foundation of Friar Mous. In his spare time he was active as a water color and oil painter. He officially retired in 1967, and passed away in Haarlem in 1980.

Death and legacy
Huib de Ru is mainly remembered for his traditional and elegant decorative works, which have been praised for their technical craftmanship. His comics work remained largely overlooked. De Ru's stories in Kleine Wij were credited to "Huib", making the real identity of the artist unkown for many years, just like that of another Kleine Wij contributor, the mysterious Priel. His son Huib de Ru Jr. (1928) was a cameraman, reporter and director for the broadcasting companies Polygoon and VARA.

More information about Huib de Ru
The life and work of Huib de Ru has been studied and chronicled by publicist Hans Vogelesang in his paper 'Huib de Ru - Haarlemse sierkunstenaar, glazenier, schilder en tekenaar'.


Self-portrait (1941). 

Hans Vogelesang's paper, hosted by rkddb.rkd.nl (PDF)

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