Crowdfunding to the rescue of 1938 Olive Oyl mural


A non-profit group dedicated to protecting adverts is launching a crowdfunding campaign to help save a mural that’s now recognised as Flemish heritage

Former glory

A group set up to protect historic painted advertisements on the walls of buildings is to launch a crowdfunding action to restore their most famous project: the 1938 advert for electric cookers featuring Olive Oyl, girlfriend of Popeye.

The group, the non-profit Demurenspreken (The Walls Speak), succeeded last year in having the illustration in Londerzeel , Flemish Brabant, recognised as Flemish heritage. “It’s a beautiful Art Deco drawing in which Olive reminds us of a turning point in people’s daily lives, when electricity was introduced into the household,” said Edwin Deschepper, founder and president of the group.

The mural was painted in 1938 by Jan Stroobants, a fan of Popeye who considered himself an artist rather than an advertising man. The date was confirmed by Belgacom, who told Deschepper that the three-digit telephone number 728 meant that it had to be painted before 1939, which is when all telephone numbers in the Mechelen area switched to five digits.

Olive (pictured) is now protected by the government of Flanders, whose minister-president, Geert Bourgeois, holds the heritage portfolio. The next step is to restore her to her former glory, for which crowdfunding will provide the resources. After that, the group has a shopping list of other wall-based ads to protect.

“We have an inventory of more than 200 sites,” Deschepper told De Morgen. “They’re disappearing at a worrying rate. The biggest threat comes from subsidies for external insulation.”

Photo courtesy Herita