Image: prints by H.N. Werkman (1944), posters by Wim Crouwel (1970s?)
Yesterday I interviewed Wim Crouwel at the celebration event of Total Identity’s 50th anniversary in Amsterdam. Wim certainly gets older but is still as bright and kind as he used to be. I asked him about his years in Groningen, around the Second World War. Did he see the work of Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman? Yes, his grandparents were the neighbours of Werkman’s friend Job Hansen. He showed him many of the sensational prints when they had only just been made. And no, Wim never met Werkman in person and he considered him of little influence to his own graphic work. Job Hansen and also Jan van der Zee, both abstract painters and members of the artists’ group De Ploeg, were an inspiration to him. But Werkman, no, he didn’t make the slightest mark on his artistic development.
When the official part of the interview was done I asked Wim again: Are you sure that Werkman hasn’t been of any influence? He might have been there subconsciously when you designed your posters, catalogues, stamps and more. He smiled friendly and said: I really don’t think so – but one can never be sure about these things. I suggested to set up a dialogue of their works in a small exhibition to show what they had to tell to each other. Wim remained friendly but obviously didn’t like the idea and all of a sudden looked tired. The subject took him almost seventy years back to Groningen: young, curious and talented and within a stone’s throw of Werkman. Was the tragic and magnificent artist, typographer and printer the elephant in his living room?