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Herman van Valen was born on 6 januari 1916 in the Dutch town of Eindhoven. As a child he was fascinated by music. He studied the flügelhorn, violin and bassoon. However, it did not take him long to decide that the graphic arts were his true destiny. Herman started drawing and painting in the naturalistic tradition.

At first he rented a studio in Eindhoven. But life in this town, dominated by cigar and lightbulb factories (electronics giant Philips has its roots in Eindhoven), cramped his style. It was not an environment suited for an aspiring young artist.

In 1941 the inevitable happens: Herman van Valen moves to Amsterdam.