Remembering Anton Pieck...

by Miff Crommelin

Foto: Karel Helmers/Prive

Not everyone has the privilege of learning how to draw from a veritable Dutch master, but when my father, Edward Crommelin (1914-1982), attended Kennemer Lyceum in Bloemendaal in the early 1930's, his art instructor happened to be the world-renowned illustrator, Anton Pieck. Pieck's fine pictures will be familiar to anyone who has seen Christmas cards and calendars that feature his colorful scenes of 'olde tyme' Holland as it looked in the 1880's. No doubt Norman Rockwell in America would be considered his equivalent in terms of output, refined craftsmanship, and evoking the spirit of a nation.

A still life by Ed Crommelin, 1931

Under his tutelage my father made some nice drawings but at this time he was a teenager of 17, and his mind was on other things like skiing and making music as a drummer with the school jazz band.

1931 ski lessons in St. Anton, Austria with schoolmates from
Kennemer Lyceum. Ed Crommelin (2nd from right)

In the years 1931-1933 my father played drums with the school dance band which played engagements as far afield as Switzerland. He also wrote an article for the De LyceumKrant called "Wat Zullen We Draaien?" about the latest jazz records from America and England that were being listened to in Holland. The cartoon above his article was drawn by none other than Anton Pieck! In 1933 he became an editor of De LyceumKrant when his article on jazz music was changed to "Say It With...Records!".



In 1973 Ed dared to contact his former art teacher and thus began an exchange of cards and letters that lasted for several years. His first note included the following paragraphs:

Zeer Geachte Heer Pieck,

U zult ongetwijfeld mij niet meer herinneren, maar ik was een van Uw dankbare leerlingen op het Kennemer Lyceum omstreeks de jaren 1931/1933. U kon vaak streng zijn maar Uw kritiek was altijd gerechtvaardigd en meer belangrijk het was positief en dus voor je eigen bestwil! Ik heb nog altijd schetsen onder Uw leiding gemaakt, een ervan zelfe ingelijst van een stilleven van een Bijbel met een ouderwets maatje erbij, dat onmiskenbaar Uw invloed verraad!

Vorige maand, vroeg mijn oudste zuster, die ik al in geen 21 jaar heb gezien, waar ze mij een plezier mee kon doen als zij ons komt opzoeken deze zomer. Ik schreef haar terug, "Wij zijn tevreden menschen, hebben eigenlijk alles voor ons geluk, maar kijk eens rond of er een boek is over Anton Pieck, mijn oud tekenleeraar!" Prompt ontving ik daarop van haar, het krantenuitsknipsel uit de NRC Handelsblad 23-3-1973! Zoo blij te zien dat U het goed maakt en nog altijd even actief!

Met een hartelijke Groet uit dit Verre Westen en moge U de Wereld nog lang verrijken met Uw Groot Talent!

Surprisingly, Mr. Pieck promptly replied with a kind letter to his former pupil, and a Christmas card arrived from him regularly each Christmas thereafter for about 7 years. Mr. Pieck graciously autographed a lovely anthology of his work entitled, Anton Pieck - Zyn Leven - Zyn Werk.

He was also kind enough to send my father a print made on his own home printing press...

(This very print appears in the book, Anton Pieck - Zyn Leven - Zyn Werk, p.111)

(Foto: Anton Pfeiffer)

The anthology on Anton Pieck's work shows a lovely painting he made shortly after he retired from teaching art at Kennemer Lyceum from 1920 to 1960. He felt so happy to be free from classroom duties that he celebrated by painting a still life of two fish on a pewter plate. It occurred to me that my father contributed a little to Mr. Pieck's relief at not having to teach students any longer the fundamentals of drawing! It seems incredible that any man could have had such a prodigious output of exceptional artwork in a single lifetime, and still have the time and energy to teach pupils for 40 years. What an amazing man!

(Source: Anton Pieck - Zyn Leven - Zyn Werk, p.98)

Based on his artwork, a fantasy village 'theme park' called 'Efteling' located at Kaatsheuvel, Holland, was established in 1952, predating Disneyland by three years. It features creations from the imagination of Anton Pieck and draws multitudes of tourists from around the world annually. Besides being of the same caliber as Norman Rockwell in his art, Anton Pieck thus inspired artwork that later came to 'life' reminiscent of the creativity of Walt Disney.

At 85, Anton Pieck was still a child in spirit, living in a gentler age...
(Source: The Windmill Herald, 19 Mei 1980)

(Source: Holland Herald)