In the bookcase above Gé’s bed is a copy of Pommie (1934), written and illustrated by Rie Cramer. We do not know for certain whether Gé, the Sonnevelds’ younger daughter, who was thirteen when the house was completed, actually read this book but it is certainly not inconceivable. Photographs of Sonneveld House show that the girls read a great deal: the studio was full of books.
The most beautiful picture books were published in the Netherlands in the years before the Second World War. In the 1920s Dutch publishers began to pay greater attention to the appearance of children’s books. The cultural significance of children’s books – their educational and civilising role – attracted renowned designers and illustrators.
From the 1920s Rie Cramer (1887-1977) wrote and illustrated more than 120 children’s books and fairy tales. She initially achieved recognition for her jolly verses but was later best known for her distinctive illustrations for, among others, the works of the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. She was also the illustrator for the children’s magazine Zonneschijn (Sunshine), several copies of which are in the studio. Her drawing style was influenced by foreign examples such as Aubrey Beardsley and French Art Nouveau. In addition to writing and illustrating, she also made ceramics and designed costumes and interiors.
Rie Cramer, Pommie, 1934, private collection.