Obituary for Robert 'Ootje' Oxenaar

5 oktober 2017

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RDE 'Ootje' Oxenaar, renowned and beloved Dutch graphic designer and Professor of Industrial Design died on 13 June 2017 at his Manomet home in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

Born in The Hague on 7 October 1929, Oxenaar was the son of Herman F.D. Oxenaar and Wilhelmina J.M. Hendriksz, and the younger brother of R.D.W. 'Rudi' Oxenaar, and was known throughout his life as 'Ootje' Oxenaar. 

From 1964-87 he was responsible for the revolutionary design of the Dutch paper currency, including the 50 guilder 'sunflower' and 250 guilder 'lighthouse' banknotes which were internationally celebrated as the most beautiful and least counterfeited money in the world. Oxenaar banknotes stayed in circulation in the Netherlands from1964 until being replaced by the Euro in 2002.

First a student (1947-58) then tutor (1958-70) at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Oxenaar taught and was Professor at the University Delft (TU) from 1979-92. As Head of the art and design advisory bureau at the Dutch Postal and Telecommunications (PTT then KPN) from 1976-94 he was responsible for commissioning art and design for the largest public concern in The Netherlands.

Among his many commissions for the public sector, Oxenaar served as aesthetic advisor to the Dutch National Bank, the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands and the Danish Ministry of Transport.

As a advisor, commissioner, teacher and international lecturer for more than fifty years, Oxenaar's influence was extensive on subsequent generations of designers. Oxenaar was member of the Alliance Graphique International (AGI) and an honorary member of the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO). His work is held in the Nederlands Archief Grafisch Ontwerpers, Utrecht (NAGO) and featured in the book 'RDE [Ootje] Oxenaar: Designer and Commissioner' by Els Kuijpers (010 publishers, Rotterdam, 2011).

In 2000 Oxenaar emigrated to the United States to accompany his wife Dawn Barrett as Dean of Architecture + Design at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and later as President of Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. From 1995-2005 Oxenaar continued his studio practice and taught in RISD's Department of Graphic Design.

Enduring Alzheimer's Disease for the last decade of his life, Ootje maintained his loving, enlightened spirit and generous humor, throughout all. He died as he lived: gracefully, at home, with family - full of wonder, kindness, enduring charm and absolutely beloved.

He is survived by his wife Dawn Barrett; their daughters Emma Oxenaar and Emily Oxenaar of Paris and Galway respectively; and in The Netherlands by son Hein Oxenaar of Zoelen; daughter Tourette van Meurs Oxenaar and family members Menso van Meurs, Maria van Meurs; Hannah van Meurs- Verburg, Niels Verburg, Feline and Pepijn Verburg, Suzanne Oxenaar, Ronald Ophuis, Bobo Ophuis; Dorien Oxenaar, Geert Ates, Babs and Ronja Ates; Aart Oxenaar, Vera Simon Thomas, Isa, Sem, and Max Oxenaar.

A memorial service in The Netherlands is scheduled for 7 October 2017 in The Hague.

Oxenaar Design Association

In honor of Ootje Oxenaar the renowned Dutch graphic designer, The Oxenaar Design Association [ODA] has been created as a charitable, non-profit foundation with a tripartite mission to:

  1. further RDE 'Ootje' Oxenaar's legacy in art and design for the public sphere;
  2. advance the Oxenaar family heritage of contribution to visual culture in The Netherlands; and
  3. by awarding grant awards to individuals and institutions for significant and outstanding achievements in graphic design or design education.