In de Wolken by Nike
'In De Wolken' (Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 18 December 1975).

Nico Visscher was a Dutch editorial cartoonist and illustrator. Between 1961 and 1993, his cartoons provided commentary on current and political affairs in the newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden. He created the daily one-panel cartoon series 'Korrel' (1977-1993) and a gag-a-day comic titled 'In De Wolken' (1971-1979). Visscher was a founding member of the Dutch cartoonists club Verenigde Oost-Indische Inkt Compagnie (VOIC).

Early life and career
Nicolaas Henderikus Visscher was born in 1933 in Groningen. He enjoyed drawing from a young age. By the late 1940s, he decided to become a cartoonist and studied to become a lithographer. Before his graduation, however, the usage of lithography became less in vogue and was replaced by photographic techniques. Visscher therefore took a job as designer in an advertising agency. Since he liked making illustrations the best, he decided to specialize in this art form. To develop his graphic skills, Visscher took evening courses at the Groningen Art Academy. Among his main graphic influences were Saul Steinberg and David Levine.


Two episodes of 'Korrel'. The first cartoon dates from 1986 and features the first Dutchman in space, Wubbo Ockels, who is addressed with the remark: "Well, well, mr. Ockels, you came all the way from Groningen!" The joke references a remark many people from Groningen (like Ockels, who was born there) hear regularly, according to Visscher. The second cartoon is from a later date and features a Catholic priest next to baby Jesus: "We condemn every unnatural conception, except for one." 

Korrel
In 1961, Visscher became editorial cartoonist for Nieuwsblad van het Noorden ("Nijsblad van 't Noorden", in dialect), a Groningen newspaper circulating in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. Starting out with general current affairs, from 1963 on he specialized in politics. Visscher later explained he was instructed to keep his cartoons light-hearted. He, for instance, wasn't allowed to tackle serious topics like the 1975-1977 train hijackings in the Netherlands. Uncomfortable with the limitation of throwaway jokes, he left the paper for a couple of months before reappearing with a more personal feature. In 1977, his cartoon column received the title 'Korrel' (1977-1993), referencing the Dutch expression "op de korrel nemen" ("to provide a critique"). In the feature, short commentary on the news is provided through fictional characters. Visscher wanted his daily 'Korrels' (literal translation: "grain") to be as plentiful as grains of sand. In three decades time, he drew thousands of daily episodes, that ran in a corner of the front page of each issue. The Saturday newspaper had a political drawing by Visscher. A selection of 'Korrels' was compiled in the book ''t Is Alle Dagen Wat' (Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 1986). In 1993, Visscher retired from Nieuwsblad van het Noorden. His two brothers also worked for the paper; Sjors Visscher as a photographer, Guus Visscher as editor of regional, national and international topics.


'In de wolken' strip of 24 May 1974 ("What makes the sun burn?" "Silly question." "Solar energy")

'In de Wolken' and other comics
Although mainly a single-panel cartoonist, Nico Visscher has also worked on comic strips in collaboration with Kees Stip, a writer of short witty poems. Between 6 January 1971 and 2 October 1979, Nieuwsblad van het Noorden ran their comic strip 'In de Wolken'. The title was a pun on the proverb "in de wolken zijn" ("being in the clouds", meaning "being filled with joy"). The wordplay-filled gags revolve around a group of anthropomorphic clouds and the things they encounter in the sky, such as birds, air traffic and weather phenomena. Visscher and Stip signed the strips with "NiKe", a collective pseudonym made out of the first letters of their surnames. 'In De Wolken' also ran in other regional newspapers, including De Leeuwarder Courant and Utrechts Nieuwsblad.

On 24 December 1971, Nieuwsblad van het Noorden additionally printed a one-shot comic by Visscher and Stip: the contemporary Christmas story 'De Verloren Dochter' ("The Lost Daughter"), about farmer Knoert Knoesper, whose voluptuous daughter Drieka returns from the city.


'De Verloren Dochter' (Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 24 December 1971).

Other publications and activities
From 1982 on, Visscher also made drawings for the Catholic monthly Bijeen, that focused on poverty and development aid. A 1983 cartoon about the topic "world hunger" became his most famous and reprinted drawing. It depicts a poor black African imprisoned inside a bar code, trying to reach for a piece of bread. A year later, it won Visscher the 1984 Grand Prix, handed out by the International Salon of Caricature in Montreal, Canada.

From 1989 until his death in 2021, Visscher was editorial cartoonist for the weekly magazine for civil servants Binnenlands Bestuur. Many of his other cartoons were published in specialized and government magazines like Brandpunt (published by the Fokus foundation), Gas, Gasunie, Kluwer, De Gids voor het Personeelsbeleid and De Staatscourant. Visscher additionally illustrated school books for Wolters-Noordhoff and designed toys and puzzles. His colorful illustrations of animals livened up the pages of Kees Stip's playful book 'Beestenboel van Trijntje Fop' (Reed Business, 1982).


Nico Visscher's award-winning cartoon for Bijeen magazine (1983).

Verenigde Oost-Indische Inkt Compagnie
Nico Visscher was a prominent figure in the Groningen cartoonists scene, and the driving force behind several gatherings. With fellow political cartoonists, he came together in the Kaatje bij de Sluis restaurant in Blokzijl. The artists paid for their meals with drawings, that were exhibited in the restaurant afterwards; a tradition started in 1990 by Visscher and Peter van Straaten. In 2001, Visscher was founding member of the Verenigde Oost-Indische Inkt Compagnie (VOIC), along with Sieger Zuidersma, Marianne van Voorn, John Croezen and Frans Le Roux. Its name is a pun on the 17th-century Dutch East-Indian Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie/VOC) and India ink. The VOIC is a club for cartoonists, illustrators and other graphic artists from the northern Dutch provinces, and has about 120 members.

Recognition
In 1984, Visscher won the Grand Prix of the Salon International de la Caricature in Montréal, Canada. In 2013, his work was subject of an exhibition in the Stripmuseum (Dutch Comics Museum) in Groningen.

Final years and death
On 28 November 2018, Nico Visscher donated 800 of his drawings to the city archives of Groningen, and an additional number to the De Markiezenhof Museum in Bergen op Zoom. Although he officially retired that year, he still made cartoons until he passed away in his hometown Groningen in September 2021, at the age of 88. Later that week, Jesse van Muylwijck honored the late Nico Visscher in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden in his daily comic strip 'De Rechter', showing the late cartoonist arriving in Heaven made from Visscher-style clouds.


1976 cartoon by Nico Visscher starring Dutch Minister of the Interior Hans Wiegel and Prime Minister Joop den Uyl.

www.voic.nl/nicovisscher

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