Paper cuts in the Netherlands

I just learned that the Netherlands has a long history of paper cuts, the artworks made by cuttiing one single sheet of paper. There is barely any information on them available in English so I have gathered together a few highlights.(Incidentally I also just found out there is a Jewish paper cut tradition going back 500 years. China, of course, has a very old and flourishing tradition.) One Dutch paper cut artist who I like a lot is Hil Bottema (1913-1968), who also did some graphic design.

My favorites are her New Year’s cards. These are printedĀ  items based on, or in the style of, paper cuts, rather than the cuts themselves. Click images to enlarge.

Postage stamps by Bottema and pages from an informational booklet that accompanied them. The stamps are for Christmas and other fall and winter holidays and have a surcharge that benefits children’s charities.

Posters. The first two are for the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, which is a collection of historic buildings with reenactment actors but also has a large collection of paper cuts.

Board game of the Open Air Museum. Besides waffles, there seem to be cakes and cookies in the center which I imagine are “prizes” for the winner.

Other Dutch paper cuts from theĀ  1700s and 1800s except as noted

There are good paper cuts being made today but many of those that get the most attention don’t do much for me. What they have in common is their extravagant detail and an ostentatiously labor-intensive character. They rely too heavily on technical virtuosity and wow-factor and not enough on inspiration or charm. Hil Bottema’s designs have more impact, emotional depth, personality and resonance yet in terms of the actual number of cuts and level of precision they are much simpler than these ostensible showstoppers.



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