Marco Polo, by Cees van de Weert
'Marco Polo' (Tom Poes Weekblad volume 1, issue #45).

Cees van de Weert was a Dutch comic artist who, during the 1940s and 1950s, worked as an employee for the legendary Marten Toonder Studios. He was head of the firm's drawing studio, and the original artist behind the 'Marco Polo' (1947) comic in Tom Poes Weekblad.

Early life
Cees van de Weert was born in 1917 in Zeist, east of the northern-central city Utrecht, as Cornelis van de Weert. In the early stages of World War II he served as second lieutenant observer in the Dutch Air Force. Shortly after the German invasion in May 1940 his plane was shot down and the young man was briefly imprisoned in Camp Schoorl. After his release Van de Weert worked as a drawing teacher until finding employment with Marten Toonder's Amsterdam-based studio in 1941. Van de Weert was one of the first artists to join the new enterprise; Wim Lensen had become Toonder's assistant in the previous year.

Tom Poes board game.

Toonder Studio's
Toonder had just launched his iconic newspaper comic 'Tom Poes' (1941-1986), and his business partner Jan Bouman was already planning a merchandising line. One of Cees van de Weert's first jobs at the studio was the development of a 'Tom Poes' board game, together with Jan Gerhard Toonder and Dirk Huizinga. The team expanded in June 1942 when Toonder began a partnership with Joop Geesink, who brought along several of his co-workers. When the studio ventured into animation, Van de Weert became a background painter for the productions. He was art director and lead designer of 'Das Musikalische Auto', an advertising film in commission of the German production company UFA, directed by Henk Kabos. Once a week Van de Weert and Kabos trained the studio's less experienced artists in human anatomy and the construction of cartoon characters. While the studio worked on several animation projects for German clients during the war years, few were actually finished. The activities were basically a front to keep the co-workers from forced labor in Nazi Germany. In the last war year, the studio got involved in illegal activities. One of these was the launch of the underground paper Metro (1944-1945), for which Cees van de Weert designed the logo. After the German surrender in May 1945, the team also created Jeep, a short-lived magazine for the Canadian liberators. Marten Toonder, Hans Kresse, Henk Kabos and Cees van de Weert provided cartoons.

Sample strip of 'Ben Busy', which was offered to newspapers in 1945.

Productions for Toonder
Cees van de Weert was eventually appointed head of the drawing studio. He however continued to participate in some of the comics projects himself, such as the advertising comic 'Pinneke Proost' (1943) for Kabouter-Jenever. Toonder wrote the story, while H.G. Kresse developed the characters, Cees van de Weert did the lay-outs and Frans van Lamsweerde produced the finished art. Henk Kabos designed the ornamental first letters of each text block. The book was printed, but never distributed and would only be republished in 1995 in a limited edition. Van de Weert was also involved in the creation of Hans G. Kresse's 'Robby' (1945), one of the first new comic strips the studio sold to newspapers after the war. Another new feature presented for licensing to the post-war newspapers was 'Ben Busy' by Cees van de Weert, but presumably never saw print.

Marco Polo by Cees van de Weert
'Marco Polo' (Tom Poes Weekblad volume 1, issue #46).

When Marten Toonder launched his weekly magazine Tom Poes Weekblad in 1947, his co-workers got the opportunity to contribute their own creations. With writer Ansje Herblot, Van de Weert created the historical adventure serial 'Marco Polo' (1948-1949), which was continued halfway by Gerard van Straaten. Under the pen name Hans Geerlag, Cees van de Weert made illustrations for the A.D. Hildebrand books 'Joessoef, Het Knechtje van de Sultan' (1950) and 'Met Lodewijk in de zak' (1950). Between 1955 and 1959 a miniature city based on Tom Poes' hometown Rommeldam was erected in Oisterwijk, for which Van de Weert designed many of the 400 houses. In 1958 he, Jan Wesseling and Andries Brandt made the drawings for 'Arretje Nof op de Planeet der Horenmannen' (1958), an advertising picture story for Calvé. In 1960 Cees van de Weert also made the large illustration for Marten Toonder's Christmas contest in De Volkskrant. In the following year's edition, Dick Matena pencilled the illustration, while Van de Weert inked it. 

Joessoef by Hans Geerlag
Cover illustrations by Cees van de Weert for A.D. Hildebrand's 'Joessoef, Het Knechtje van de Sultan' and 'Met Lodewijk in de Zak'. 

Studio head
As studio head, Van de Weert was responsible for preparing the finished strips for the printer. He also trained and guided the many artists that came and went, including Wim van Wieringen, James Ringrose, Wim Lensen, Frits Godhelp, Richard Klokkers, Ben van Voorn, Ben van 't Klooster, Thé Tjong-Khing, Harry Hargreaves and many more. The team produced about fifteen newspaper comics, including Toonder's own creations 'Tom Poes', 'Panda', 'Kappie', 'Olle Kapoen' and 'Koning Hollewijn', but also 'Erik de Noorman' by Hans G. Kresse and 'Tekko Taks' by Henk Kabos and James Ringrose. Cees van de Weert had the ungrateful task to be the middle man between Toonder and the artists. A role he grew to dislike, as the master was rather harsh in his commentary on the produced artwork, and capricious in his opinions and visions. In the studio Van de Weert had to be the "bad news" messenger, and, as a result, receive the scorn of the offended artists. By June 1961 Van de Weert left, and turned freelance. He was replaced by Frits Kloezeman. According to Marten Toonder's biography by Wim Hazeu (2012), Toonder saw Cees van de Weert as one of his most loyal co-workers. After Van de Weert left, Toonder felt that an essential part of the studios was gone. This was one of the reasons why Toonder gradually distanced himself from the daily routine in the studios and eventually moved to Ireland in 1965.

Later life and death
In June 1961 Cees van de Weert turned freelance and began his own atelier at the Amsterdam Herengracht, called Studio '62. He mainly worked as a graphic designer for toy and puzzle production companies like Introva, but also made illustrations and designs for books, calendars and commercial clients. A major project for Cees van de Weert was designing the sets for 'De Tuin van Europa' ("The Garden of Europe"), a mass re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in the Goffertpark in Nijmegen, organized by Carel Briels in 1963. In 1965 he also made designs for a planned fairy tale amusement park in Lage Vuursche (Baarn), initiated by stage actress Enneke Elro and her husband/manager Coen Spaan. The park however never saw the light of day. Van de Weert passed away in 1981 in Amsterdam.

Marco Polo by Cees van de Weert
'Marco Polo' (Tom Poes Weekblad volume 1, issue #40).

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