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Remembering Marjan Unger

By 04-07-2018

Dutch design expert Marjan Unger has passed away on 27 June 2018 after suffering an incurable disease for some time. She had been married to renowned type designer Gerard Unger since 1968.

With the death of Marjan Unger, Dutch design loses a remarkable personality and a tireless advocate. She was internationally known as a promoter of jewellery, but she was also very well versed in all other design disciplines.

Marjan had an outspoken passion for design. Although she went to the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 1964 to study industrial design, she must have decided early on that she was not a maker but rather an observer.

The famous design slogan ‘less is more’ was certainly not one of her benchmarks. She understood that this was a way to arrive at a certain aesthetic, one which she could appreciate very well, but she strongly opposed the idea that this should apply for always and everyone.

Marjan was constantly broadening her horizons and discovering new things, which she was eager to share with others – as a teacher at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and as head of the Applied Arts Department of the Sandberg Institute, as editor-in-chief of the design magazines Bijvoorbeeld and Morf, and as an author of countless articles and two substantial books.

After her retirement she decided to focus on her doctorate in art history, which took place on 17 March 2010 at Leyden University. On this occasion, she and her husband donated a large part of their jewellery collection to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In November 2017, an adapted version of her dissertation appeared in English, under the title ‘Jewellery Matters’.

I had the honour and the pleasure of working together with Marjan over many years. She was inimitable in every way. One thing not being finished yet, she was already on to the next one. Students returned exhausted after excursions under her supervision. She did everything with the full commitment of her personality and a wonderful sense of humour.

Marjan was a strong but warm personality, generous and hospitable, steadfast but always able to not take herself too seriously. She ensured that her personal ambitions ran parallel to higher goals and never accepted a role as a so-called objective bystander. Her contribution to Dutch design is difficult to overestimate and she will be missed by many on a personal level as well.

Sybrand Zijlstra

Photo: Marjan and Flora Unger by Bert Nienhuis

More about book ‘Jewellery Matters’ > 10.11.2017