Cartoon from 11/8/1962, by Opland
Caricature of Dutch Secretary of Foreign Affairs and later N.A.T.O. secretary-general Joseph Luns. 

Opland was a Dutch mid- to late 20th-century political cartoonist. Between 1947 and 2001 he drew hundreds of cartoons for the opinion weekly De Groene Amsterdammer and newspaper De Volkskrant. At the start of his career, the 18-year old was the youngest active Dutch cartoonist in his country. By the time of his death, at age 73, he was coincidentally also the oldest. Opland is best remembered for his socially conscious posters. The most iconic one supported the 1980s anti nuclear missile movement and depicts a tiny woman kicking a missile away. It became a global mascot for the movement. Opland's cartoons sometimes made use of sequential images, but he created an actual text comic too: 'De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna' (1979-1980). Contrary to his political cartoons, this was an apolitical humorous adventure comic. 

Early life and career
Opland, real name: Rob Wout, was born in 1928 in Amsterdam as the son of a book keeper. His first drawings were published in school papers, and later in the socialist party (PvdA) magazines Paraat and Met Volle Zeilen. He studied political science at the local university, but never completed these studies due to a bout of pleuritis. After World War II, he got a job at the magazine Vrij Nederland, but as head of the printing block department. Opland desperately wanted to publish cartoons in the magazine Vrij Nederland, but was sent to another opinion weekly, De Groene Amsterdammer, instead. 

Cartoon by Opland
Cartoon by Opland, 4 August 1962, about Great Britain considering joining the European Union. The caption reads: "I'll join, if my children can join too" (the children being the colonies of the Commonwealth). The three politicians who look on in exasperation are N.A.T.O. secretary-general Joseph Luns, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paul-Henri Spaak and Dutch Minister of Economy Jan de Pous.

Political cartoons
On 22 February 1947, Opland published his first political cartoon in De Kleine Krant, a supplement of the opinion weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. He signed his work with the pseudonym 'Opland', a contraction of the names of two school friends, Eddy van Opzeeland and Klaas op 't Land. At the time Opland was 18 years old, making him the youngest Dutch cartoonist ever, a record that still stands today. In 1948 he debuted in De Volkskrant too. His cartoons occasionally appeared in publications like Paraat, Met Volle Zeilen, De Vlam, Het Parool, Nieuw Utrechts Dagblad and Vrij Nederland too. This allowed him to quit his original job as bookkeeper and become a full-time cartoonist for the rest of his life. Apart from political cartoons, Opland also made illustrations for these magazines. He designed parodies of board games, such as his 1963 goose board about Dutch politics and a 1975 game that satirized conservatism. The latter game starts at the final numbered space and moves backwards to the space with the word "Start" on it. 

As a cartoonist, Opland was completely self-taught. He drew in a simple, linear style, while his characters have a somewhat naïve, almost child-like look. Nevertheless, there was still a graphic distinction between some of the work he published. For De Groene Amsterdammer, he worked in a sober and schematic style, while in De Volkskrant it had a more exuberant look, with panels crowded with characters and details.  Opland remained active as a political cartoonist until his death in 2001. By then, he was, at age 73, the oldest Dutch cartoonist who was still active in the press. 

Missile protest by Opland
Opland's iconic logo for the anti-nuclear missile movement. 

Opland was a socially conscious artist. In 1963, after learning that German rocket and bomb experts were active in Egypt, he wrote a letter to German chancellor Konrad Adenauer with the request to "curb his fellow countrymen to prevent them from returning to their natural anomalies". He made several posters, logos, flyers and pamphlets to support the feminist movement Dolle Mina, legalisation of abortion and to promote medical aid for the victims of the Vietnam War. His cartoons also protested against the Greek colonel regime, the Pinochet junta in Chile, apartheid, racism and, his most famous cause: nuclear missiles. He designed a tiny, but feisty woman who kicks a missile away. During the early 1980s, at the height of the anti-nuclear missile movement, the image could be seen on many signs and posters. The nameless woman was eventually adopted as the official mascot of the international movement against nuclear missiles. Soon Opland's logo appeared all over the globe, making it his most widespread public image. 

Like all good political cartoonists, Opland sometimes caused outrage. In 1965 princess Beatrix (the later queen Beatrix) announced her engagement to Claus von Amsberg, who was German. In the post-war Netherlands, many citizens felt their princess shouldn't marry somebody from a country who, only two decades earlier, had occupied and terrorized their fatherland. Opland made a cartoon depicting Prime Minister Jo Cals as a scout who helps Claus cross the street, now that "the light has turned orange" (in reference to the Netherlands' national color orange). Editors of De Volkskrant were offended because Claus was drawn wearing a German military uniform. They rejected the cartoon, but on 30 October 1965 it did appear in print in Het Parool. 

In 1969 Dutch radio journalist G.B.J. Hiltermann named De Volkskrant "antisemitic", because they criticized Israel's war politics, citing an Opland cartoon about the matter as an example. De Volkskrant brought the matter to court. The judge ruled in their favour and Hiltermann had to apologize for his harsh accusations. Politician Hans Wiegel remarked that he strongly disliked Opland drawing him as a young boy with snot dripping from his nose. Nevertheless, he kept all his cartoon portrayals and accepted it as the prize of fame. Fellow politician Harm van Riel once praised Opland with the hidden insult: "Politically he means nothing, but he is a great artist." D'66 politician Hans van Mierlo and former Prime Minister Dries van Agt expressed an even stronger dislike of Opland's work. When Opland died, Van Agt was asked for a reaction, but he simply claimed "he had no time for that." 

De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna, by Opland
The first episode of 'De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna', 1979. 

Opland was mostly an one-panel cartoonist, but occasionally made use of comic strip formats too. A 1957 cartoon satirized the downfall of Soviet politician Dmitri Shepilov in the style of a text comic. In 1973 he made a comic in colour, 'Spoken Op het Catshuis' (1973), in which Prime Minister Joop den Uyl and his wife wake up at night because they hear a strange noise. They fear it might be ghosts, but they turn out to be members of the opposition making a rumble. An oddity in Opland's career is 'De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna' (1979-1980). This text comic ran in De Volkskrant and was Opland's only attempt at creating an actual adventure comic starring a fictional character of his own. The story follows a mother of four children, Anna. Her husband is an abusive drunk and she wants to change her life. She then has a fantastical adventure with a happy end. 

Opland also created sketch books about his holidays. Some of these, like a 1981 report about his trip over the Atlantic Ocean, were drawn in the style of a comic strip. In November-December 1964 he also participated in a comic special by the monthly magazine Ratio, which also featured work by artists like Peter Vos, Rupert van der Linden, Guus Boissevain, Marten Toonder, Frank Lodeizen, Frits Müller, Hugh Jans, Wibo, Thé Tjong-Khing, Waldemar Post  and Peter van Straaten .

De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna, by Opland

Graphic and written contributions
Opland livened up Jeanne Roos' column in the newspaper Het Parool. In 1962 these columns were compiled in book format. De Groene Amsterdammer additionally published poems by Opland under various ludicrous pseudonyms, including Adje Beenhakker, Tarquinia Edelstein, Hermine Troosteloos, Abraham Heenvliet and Pjotr Primsey Primakof. During the World Exhibitions in respectively Brussels (1958) and Montréal (1967), Opland was in charge of decorating the walls of the Dutch pavilion. Opland also wrote and illustrated two children's books for his daughter. They appeared in print as 'De Sneeuwpop' (De Harmonie, 1980) and 'De Muts Van De Keizer' (De Harmonie, 1980). In his spare time he was also active as a painter.

Still, Opland's work was respected by many other people too, including politicians Norbert Schmelzer, Hans Wiegel, Ed Nijpels and former Prime Minister Piet de Jong. Schmelzer and De Jong even collected his cartoons. They once asked Opland to sell some of his originals to them, which he flat-out refused, since he didn't like praise from politicians. Nevertheless in 1964 an exhibition was built around Opland's cartoons, with a companion book which had a foreword by Dutch Secretary of Foreign Affairs (and later secretary-general of N.A.T.O.) Joseph Luns. The expo was opened by famous Dutch novelist Godfried Bomans. 

In 1970 Opland received the Lofprijs voor de Nederlandse Journalistiek ("Praise Award for Dutch Journalism"), because the organisation regarded him as a journalist who just happened to work in a "visual" medium. In 1988 he also received the H.M. Werkmanprijs for his entire work. Opland also won the Inktspotprijs in 1995 for a cartoon which ridiculed Christian-Democratic politician Elco Brinkman of the CDA.

Cartoon by Opland
'Beeld van een Sov-carrière' ('Image of a career in the Soviet Union'). A 1957 cartoon depicting the rise and fall of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitri Shepilov, who was forced to resign over a failed coup against head of state Nikita Khrushchev. The final panel sarcastically claims he is now a "respected seated member of the U.S.S.R", showing him on a jail bench. 

Death, legacy and influence
In 2001 Opland passed away from bone cancer, just one day after his 73th birthday. In late 2004 his work was exhibited in the Belfort in Brugge, Belgium, together with work by Belgian cartoonist Marec, after which the exhibition could be viewed in Historisch Centrum Het Markiezenhof in the Dutch village Bergen op Zoom until the late summer of 2005.

Books about Opland
As an accompaniment to the 2004 exhibition about his work, the catalogue, 'De Wereld (1947-2001) Volgens Opland', was brought out by Johanna Jacobs, Geert Mak and Koos van Wering. The work is highly recommended. 

cover by Opland
Cover for Vrij Nederland, depicting a bank manager begging for financial support.

Series and books by Opland you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.