Jan Bons (1918-2012)

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Jan Bons at the opening of the Blikvangers exhibition. Left the exhibition poster by Reitsma, right Bons’ own IDFA posters.

Today I sadly read that Jan Bons died on 22 November. Bons was one of the most famous Dutch designers. I met Bons in 2005 when, inspired by a course on film posters I had started in 2004, we organised at the exhibition space Exposorium of the Vrije Universiteit an exhibition called Blikvangers [Eyecatchers] on 60 years of Dutch film poster design. Two of my students who had participated in my course, plus Hendriekje Bosma of Exposorium organised the whole exhibition, in close collaboration with EYE/Netherlands Filmmuseum (Soeluh van de Berg, Rob Lambers) and – let’s not forget – the Premsela Foundation (Paul van Yperen). At the opening, Bons was honored as doyen of Dutch poster design related to cinema. Indeed, from 1990 Bons had been the very recognizable designer of the posters for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Several examples of these were visible in the Blikvangers exhibition. Typical was Bons’ minimal style, composed of forms and letters torn from paper. His image of a camera with a tripod was the IDFA logo for years and remained so even after the festival selected another designer for the yearly IDFA posters. Specially for the Blikvangers exhibition, designer Lex Reitsma, who designed the beautiful exhibition poster as well, made an intriguing short film on Bons’ work, in particular his last poster for IDFA. It showed Bons as a modest but also self-willed older man working in his small studio in the Flevopark or scrutinizing the prints of the posters. When in 2008, in occasion of his 90th birthday, a large exhibition on Bons was organised by Reitsma at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam, he not only published an extensive book but also a feature-length documentary, inspired by the short for the Blikvangers exhibition. In addition to the IDFA posters, Bons was also famous for his theater posters for De Appel in The Hague and Studio in Amsterdam, his posters for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, plus the logo for VPRO television (1966). In addition to designer, Bons was also painter and sculptor. In the postwar era he had met famous Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld with whom he collaborated until the latter’s death in 1964.

~ by Ivo Blom on December 1, 2012.

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