Bruna was diligent to the end. He would throw out hundreds of attempts until he reached “that moment of recognition” with a particular scene, a particular expression. He never rested on his laurels. “Each time I draw Miffy I feel nervous,” he told an interviewer. “I want to make her better than yesterday, to move her on a bit”.
Despite his growing fame and wealth, Bruna lived a simple and routine life entirely structured around his drawing and storytelling. He was up around 5.30 and in his studio six, often seven, days a week. For him, happiness was “cycling to my studio very early in the morning”.
It was on his bike on a summer holiday that Bruna experienced a sudden breathlessness. A visit to a doctor confirmed heart trouble, and Bruna was fitted with a pacemaker. After that, he resolved not to return to his studio. Despite encouragement from his family, he would not be persuaded. He did not want to work if he couldn’t give it his all.
Bruna lived another five and a half years, long enough to enjoy the launch of Miffy the Movie, an exhibition of his work at the Rijksmuseum, and the re-opening of the Miffy Museum in Utrecht. In 2016, he was awarded a lifetime achievement award for illustration. He died peacefully in his sleep in February 2017.