July / August 2021

Robbert Das

Backward and forward in time
Robbert Das


If Albert Einstein wanted a person to prove his theory that time is an illusion, he could have done worse than look at the career of Robbert Das. The Dutch graphic artist, together with his twin, Rudolf, became famous for their futuristic visions of urban dwellings and hypersonic aircraft; Robbert proved equally adept at exploring the ways boats of all ages were put together. Not only that, but he was able to illustrate his ideas with stunning 3D drawings revealing the inner workings of boats, airplanes, and buildings alike. He did this long before CAD was invented.

Born in Haarlem, Holland, in 1929, Robbert and Rudolf Das started their 3D drawings at an early age, when their father gave them a roll of wallpaper and some pencils. They soon learned to draw large warships from different perspectives and were later inspired by the British illustrator Jim Clark’s cutaway drawings of airplanes. In fact, the brothers planned to train as commercial pilots until Robbert was rejected because of an eye defect.

Instead, they set up a technical illustration agency in 1952 and immediately shot to fame for a detailed cutaway drawing of the Royal Air Force’s secret new jet fighter, the Vickers Supermarine Swift. Even though all the information had been collated from public sources, the accuracy of their work caused consternation in government circles and they had to promise to “not do that anymore.” The stunt not only established the brothers as skilled illustrators but as visionaries with a unique ability to picture the unknown.

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