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Artist Dick Bruna, creator of rabbit Miffy, has died at 89

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/17/2017 By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press
FILE - In this Thursday Aug. 27, 2015 file image drawings of Miffy are displayed at a new exhibition charting the significance of the white bunny created by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, putting his work alongside those of his key inspirations, including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and members of Dutch art movement De Stijl at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Dick Bruna passed away Thursday Feb. 16, 2017 aged 89. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Thursday Aug. 27, 2015 file image drawings of Miffy are displayed at a new exhibition charting the significance of the white bunny created by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, putting his work alongside those of his key inspirations, including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and members of Dutch art movement De Stijl at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Dick Bruna passed away Thursday Feb. 16, 2017 aged 89. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dick Bruna, the Dutch illustrator and artist who created the bestselling series of children's books starring white rabbit Miffy, has died at age 89, his publisher announced Friday.

In this Thursday Aug. 27, 2015 file image drawings of Miffy are displayed at a new exhibition charting the significance of the white bunny created by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, putting his work alongside those of his key inspirations, including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and members of Dutch art movement De Stijl at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Dick Bruna passed away Thursday Feb. 16, 2017 aged 89. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) © The Associated Press In this Thursday Aug. 27, 2015 file image drawings of Miffy are displayed at a new exhibition charting the significance of the white bunny created by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, putting his work alongside those of his key inspirations, including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and members of Dutch art movement De Stijl at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Dick Bruna passed away Thursday Feb. 16, 2017 aged 89. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Bruna "passed away peacefully in his sleep" Thursday night in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, said Marja Kerkhof, of his Dutch publisher Mercis, in a telephone interview.

The simplicity of Bruna's characters drew adoration not only from children around the world, but also from adult art lovers. Amsterdam's venerable Rijksmuseum put on a show featuring his work in 2015.

He wrote and illustrated a total of 124 books, but Miffy, known in the Netherlands as Nijntje, was far and away his most popular and best known character.

Bruna created 32 books about the rabbit, which were translated into more than 50 languages and sold more than 85 million copies, Kerkhof said.

Miffy, who turns 62 this year, is a merchandising juggernaut, featuring on stationery, toys and children's trinkets sold across the world. But the books — always square because Bruna believed the format perfectly into two young hands — were the backbone of the multimillion euro (dollar) empire.

"He was very much loved around the world. I remember traveling with him to Australia, to New Zealand, to Asia, to Japan. Wherever he would go people would queue up for signing sessions of his books," Kerkhof said.

She said the public's affection for both Bruna and Miffy stemmed from the illustrations' simplicity.

"It is very clear pictures, almost like a pictogram, and the fact that he leaves so much out — he goes to the essence of things — and of course his very strong, powerful primary colors," she said. "Even today if you see it in a store you would think, 'hey this looks different to a lot of other things out there.' There is no clutter, it's all very clear."

A museum in Utrecht dedicated to Miffy tweeted: "Today the sad news reached us that Dick Bruna has died." The message appeared above a typically simple but emotionally powerful black and white drawing of the famous rabbit, arms behind her back and a single tear just below her left eye.

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