Jaap Penraat (1918-2006), designer. Penraat was born in Amsterdam, where he studied at the interior design department of the Institute for Applied Arts Education (IvKNO). During the Second World War, he set up a small enterprise where he made plaster tiles and statues of saints. He saved the lives of hundreds of Jews by providing them with a permit and helped them escape to France. Hudson Talbott wrote the book Forging Freedom, a True Story of Heroism during the Holocaust about Penraat’s role in the Dutch resistance.
Penraat established himself as an independent industrial designer, he joined the study trip to the United States in 1953, and he was a member of GKf (Association of Practitioners of Applied Arts) and KIO (Association of Industrial Designers). His work included bottles for the Chemical Plant in Naarden with Charles Jongejans and Jan Bons, a sofa with disc-shaped cushions, models for tram and bus shelters, the interior of a tram for the city of Amsterdam with Friso Kramer, and a door handle. Penraat was first married to Noortje Dekker, later the wife of Jan Bons, and later on to Charles Jongejans’ sister, Jettie. He wrote the book Hoe wilt U wonen? (‘How would you like to live?’). In 1954, he was a member of the committee that gave the city of Amsterdam advice on industrial design. Unlike his colleagues, and in violation of the honour code of the associations for designers, Penraat advertised himself, and he appeared in advertising campaigns of a wallpaper manufacturer (‘Jaap Penraat will advise you in choosing you wallpaper’). Penraat, who according to an article in De Telegraaf by Eli Asser lived in an ‘excitingly modern model home’, migrated to the United States in 1958 with his wife and kids. ‘I have reached the top in the Netherlands. So what? You look around and you suddenly realise: this is a boring, low top’, and, ‘in America they are desperate for people who know the taste of Europe.’
The Dutch version of this biography is taken from the book Visies op vormgeving, het Nederlandse ontwerpen in teksten deel 2: 1940-2000 (2008) by Frederike Huygen. The following sources have been used for this biography:
– Penraat, J. ‘Industriële vormgeving. Uw matige schoonheid’, Amsterdam 1957.
– Asser, E. ‘Familie Penraat richt de blik naar het veel meer mogelijkheden biedende Amerika’, De Telegraaf 14 maart 1958.
– Arnoldussen, P. ‘De Nederlandse Schindler heet Jaap Penraat’, Het Parool 16 juni 2001.