Simon Mari Pruys (1927-1980), designer, artist, writer, critic. Simon Mari Pruys was born on Java as the oldest son of G. Pruys, who worked as a chemist at a sugar factory and later worked for the Ministry of War. His mother was the daughter of a anthroposophical doctor. She returned to the Netherlands in 1934. Simon Mari attended secondary school in Arnhem, after the Second World War he followed painting classes by Jeroen Voskuil in Amsterdam, and studied engineering as well. Yet he felt that this was too dry, so 1947 he went to the Academy of Art in The Hague where he was taught in photography and graphic design. When he was no longer financially supported by his parents, he started working as a freelance advertising designer with his friend R.N. Baer von Hemmersweil.
Pruys stayed in Paris from 1950 to 1952, where he made drawings and designed advertising work, and in 1951 he married the interior architect Hanny van der Geest, who was also educated in The Hague. Together they started an agency in Amsterdam, and in 1959 they wrote the book Het binnenhuis, which reached 15000 copies. Pruys also did photography work and started to take courses in social psychology. His wife wrote: ‘as with everything he does, he dedicated himself to it with great diligence and seriousness as if he doesn’t have anything else on his mind.’ His first lecture (1960) already focused on the philosophical and psychological aspects of interiors. He started writing for the magazine Mobilia in 1962. One year later, he won the second prize in the First Daily Mirror International Design Competition for his bedroom interior. During the 1960s, he worked for various furniture manufacturers, but publicity work started to get the upper hand. Pruys wrote in various magazines and newspapers, including Het Parool (1964-66), Woonwijzer (1965-70), Het Algemeen Handelsblad/NRC (1968-73), Wonen TA/BK, De Volkskrant (1979-80) and De Leeuwarder Courant. He was also a teacher at the Academy of Art in The Hague and the Rietveld Academy. In 1974, he cooperated in a series of art programmes called Beeldspraak. A number of his articles were published as a book titled De nieuwe onzakelijkheid (1971) and De paradijsbouwers (1974). Pruys was also involved in the Institute for Industrial Design, where he set out a new course based on his 1972 study Dingen vormen mensen (‘Objects, shapes and people’). He wrote to Rudy Kousbroek on 15 November 1969: ‘A primary benefit is that, after years of internal struggle, we have been able to accept the idea that industrial design is primarily a cultural rather than an economic phenomenon’. Yet in 1973 he left the organisation together with Nico Verhoeven and Wouter van Dieren as this policy did not take shape.
Pruys wrote poems and made paintings as well. Hannie Pruys-van der Geest also wrote articles on design, particularly in Het Parool.
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:
– interview with Pruys.
– archival materials Pruys.