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. Active for more than half a century, he was both the youngest and later oldest Dutch cartoonist of all time at respectively the start and end of his career. Between 1947 and 2001 he drew hundreds of political cartoons for both De Groene Amsterdammer as well as De Volkskrant. Yet Opland is probably best remembered by the general public for his socially conscious posters. The most iconic of these was made in support of the 1980s anti-nuclear missile protests and depicts a tiny woman kicking a missile away. This image was spread all over the world as the official symbol of 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 a-political humoristic adventure comic. 

Early life and career
Opland, real name: Rob Wout, was born in 1928 in Amsterdam as the son of a bookkeeper. 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 the war he got a job at the magazine Vrij Nederland, but as head of the printing block department. Opland desperately wanted to publish cartoons in Vrij Nederland, but was sent to 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.

Graphic career
On 22 February 1947 he published his first political cartoon in De Kleine Krant, a supplement of De Groene Amsterdammer. He signed his work with the pseudonym 'Opland', a contamination 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 still standing today. In 1948 he debuted in De Volkskrant too. The artist could now quit his original job to become home cartoonist for both magazines until his death in 2001. His cartoons occasionally appeared in publications like Paraat, Met Volle Zeilen, De Vlam, Het Parool, Nieuw Utrechts Dagblad and... Vrij Nederland too. 

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. Opland was also the illustrator of Jeanne Roos' column in Het Parool, which was also compiled in book format in 1962. De Groene Amsterdammer also published poems by Opland under various ludicrous pseudonyms, including Adje Beenhakker, Tarquinia Edelstein, Hermine Troosteloos, Abraham Heenvliet and Pjotr Primsey Primakof. He decorated the walls of the Dutch pavilion during the World Expos in Brussels (1958) and Montréal (1967). In his spare time he made many paintings. Opland also wrote and illustrated two children's books for his daughter. They appeared in print as 'De Sneeuwpop' (1980) and 'De Muts Van De Keizer' (1980).

Missile protest by Opland

Opland had no formal training as a cartoonist. He drew in a simple, stylistic style with thick lines. His characters have a somewhat naïve, almost child-like look over them. His work in De Groene Amsterdammer tended to be sober and schematic, while in De Volkskrant it had a more joyful, exuberant feel, often with panels crowded with characters and details. 

Opland was socially conscious in real life too. 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 pamflets to support the feminist group 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, Pinochet junta in Chile, apartheid, racism and, his most famous cause: anti-nuclear missile protests. Opland's design of a tiny, but feisty woman kicking a rocket away has become iconic. During the 1980s it could be seen on many signs and posters. The international anti-missile movement adopted her as their official mascot. Soon Opland's cartoon appeared all over the globe, making it his most widespread public image. 

De Wonderlijke Avonturen van Anna, by Opland

Opland was mostly an one-panel cartoonist, but occasionally he 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 it turns 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 based on a fictional creation of his own, rather than using political caricatures. 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 comics 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

Opland's work didn't always make him friends. 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 Harm van Riel once praised Opland with the hidden insult: "Politically he means nothing, but he is a great artist." Politicians Hans van Mierlo and Dries van Agt strongly disliked Opland's work. When Opland died, Van Agt was asked for a reaction, but he simply claimed "he had no time for that." 

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. 

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 (who scripted comics by Carol Voges and Rein van Looy). 

Opland received the "Lofprijs voor de Nederlandse Journalistiek" in 1970, because the organisation saw him as a journalist who just happened to work in a "visual" medium. In 1988 he received the H.M. Werkmanprijs for his entire work. He also won the Inktspotprijs in 1995 for a cartoon which ridiculed christen-democratic politician Elco Brinkman of the CDA.

Death, legacy and influence
Working for more than 54 years, the once youngest Dutch cartoonist of all time eventually became the oldest active Dutch cartoonist of all time. In 2001 he 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 a special book, 'De Wereld (1947-2001) volgens Opland', was brought out by Johanna Jacobs, Geert Mak and Koos van Wering. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in his life and career. 

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

Opland in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

Series and books by Opland in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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