Preview JOOST SWARTE Everywhere at Kunsthal, Rotterdam

14th September – 12th January 2020.

This year, Joost Swarte will be celebrating his fiftieth anniversary as an illustrator, designer and architect with an exhibition at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. The exhibition Joost Swarte Everywhere pays homage to fifty years of drawing by presenting a cross section of Swarte’s body of work – from his first cartoons, original drawings, sketches, designs and objects to his most recent work. Swarte’s search for the most surprising and iconic illustrations is also shown on the basis of sketches that have never been exhibited before. The exhibition will be realised in collaboration with guest curator Gert Jan Pos. 

Joost Swarte – Everywhere
At the beginning of the 1970s, Swarte started his career as an underground cartoonist for ‘Modern Papier’ and ‘Tante Leny presenteert!’. His breakthrough came in 1974 when he made his debut in the French comics magazine Charlie Mensuel. With his cartoons for children in the magazines Okki and Jippo, he became better known among a wider audience. His cartoons have been published in the pioneering American Raw Magazine since 1980. He also works for Belgian, French and Spanish publications, as well as for other American magazines, including the influential The New Yorker. Joost Swarte has never restricted himself to the cartoon genre; among other things he has also illustrated novels by the writer Nescio and designed stamps, posters and album covers. His work is everywhere, sometimes in the physical shape of a building, a pair of glasses or a stamp, and sometimes in the shape of an illustration or as signposting on a wall. Just about everyone is probably familiar with it, without having consciously seen it. This is because Joost Swarte’s work has a self-evident quality – it is clear, legible, slightly ironic and always recognisable. 

Fifty years of work
The exhibition presents a selection from all the works Joost Swarte has produced over the past fifty years: from his first comic strip pages ‘The True Story of Mr. P.’ from 1969, to ‘The Organised Life’ from 2015. And from his world-famous 1980 illustration ‘The Mirror’, and the 1984 stamps he designed for the Foundation for Children’s Welfare, to his celebrated covers for The New Yorker. His work is shown in all stages of the creative process, from preliminary sketches to completed books, covers and silk-screen prints. By using a small number of spot colours and a lot of humour, Swarte provides his drawings with clarity and makes them  appealing.  Other highlights include sketches and designs for 34 stained-glass windows for a new housing project in the Marnixstraat in Amsterdam (1999), and a design for a window (measuring ca. 100 m2) for the Palace of Justice in Arnhem (2004). 

The Clear Line
With regard to graphics, Swarte is mainly influenced by classical masters such as Hergé, but he is also a great admirer of cartoonists such as George McManus, Will Eisner, Winsor McCay and Albert Dubout. Swarte’s personal sources of inspiration are at the heart of the exhibition. For instance, he drew portraits of people like Gerrit Rietveld, Groucho Marx, Jacques Tati and Diniil Charms. Joost Swarte also coined the expression ‘Clear Line’. During a Hergé exhibition in Rotterdam (1976) he came up with this term to describe a style of drawing that uses ‘clear lines’ of similar width, and bright colours without shading, to increase the legibility of the illustration. This style had its origins in the Brussels school of Hergé during the 1940s, and was revived during the 1970s and 1980s. With his rational, technical and precise style, and his great attention for bright colours and elegance, Swarte is one of the most important representatives of the ‘Clear Line’. 

About Joost Swarte
Joost Swarte (1947, Heemstede) studied Industrial Design in Eindhoven in the late 1960s, and produced illustrations for local Eindhoven publications during that time. He first appeared in the spotlights as part of the alternative cartoon movement of the 1970s. Halfway through the 1980s, Swarte’s field of activity moved from cartoon drawing to making illustrations for magazines such as Humo, Vrij Nederland and The New Yorker. He also designs posters, logos, stamps, furniture and buildings (Toneelschuur, Haarlem, 2003). Furthermore, Swarte is co-initiator of magazines such as Modern Papier and Scratches, of the ‘Stripdagen Haarlem’, the largest biennial cartoon festival in Europe, and of the Hergé Museum in the Belgian city of Louvain-la-Neuve. In 1998, Joost Swarte won the Stripschapprijs (Dutch Comic Award) for his general contribution to cartoon drawing and his entire body of work. In 2004 Queen Beatrix appointed him as officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, and in 2012 Swarte won the Marten Toonder Award for his entire body of work. 

On the occasion of the exhibition, Scratch Books Publishers will release the special large-format, soft-cover publication ‘Joost Swarte everywhere’ that includes 32 frameable prints. Retail price € 24.90.