The Rudi Oxenaar collection of picture books

28 Oct 2006 - 4 March 2007

Picture Books from the collection of Rudi Oxenaar

Children’s books and picture books, frequently found on travels abroad, have always had a special place in the Oxenaar family. Initially they were collected by Thil Oxenaar-van der Haagen. After her death Rudi Oxenaar continued, from the mid eighties onward, to develop his wife’s collection. With this he confined himself to picture books produced since World War II, books which focus on the image and where text serves as no more than a further specification of that.

Just as with his collecting activities as director of the Kröller-Müller Museum, Oxenaar approached the task with expertise and single-mindednessFrom the very start, his collection was international in scope. Picture books from the United States, where prestigious prizes such as the Caldecott Medal contribute greatly to the concern for the picture book, constitute an important part of his collection. But Japan, where Oxenaar has been several times and which, in his view, plays an equally pioneering role in this field, is also strongly represented. Completeness was never Oxenaar’s aim. Quality was a decisive factor to him. He remained true to that principle when an illustrator admired by him had produced a less successful book or when his grown children brought him children’s books from other countries.

The strict criteria employed by Oxenaar related to the imagination and originality of the illustrator, the artistic quality of the image, the surprising nature of the technique applied, the subtlety of the humor, fantasy and intensity with which the story is portrayed – in short, to all those facets that can make picture books unforgettable.

Rudi Oxenaar selected his picture books one by one and recorded his findings in small notebooks. Over a period of more than twenty years, he brought together seven thousand picture books from all over the world. From that immense wealth of material, graphic designer Tessa van der Waals has made a selection of roughly one hundred picture books, which give an impression of the diversity present in this highly personal collection.

Picture books only begin to come alive when they can be held in one’s own hands. For that reason, this presentation also makes a large number of picture books available for perusal.