Posted: 17 May 2022 08:53
I've not been able to find out anything about this, other than that "F" may stand for "Félix", and that Josef Van In & Cº were a bookseller, printers and publishers, based at 37 Groote Markt in Lier, which is just outside Antwerp.
I can see exactly what you are talking about, the station scene in 3 more than the other two, but I don't think these are by Hergé.
Firstly, they haven't cropped up before, and I am sure they would have, had he done them, as there is just so much of a market for his work; it's not impossible, but unlikely, given that the archives are relatively complete, and things like the Complete Companion and of course the Chronologies series have given a fairly solid sequence of what work he did do.
Secondly, Hergé was a big name in Belgium when these came out - bigger than F(élix) Demanet - so if you had secured him to illustrate your books, you would have put his name on the cover almost certainly, as it would probably have sold more copies, and got your students more interested in learning French!
Then there's the timing: Hergé was really busy with Tintin at this time, between producing the Seven Crystal Balls/ Prisoners story and overseeing the re-formatting and colouring of his older black-and-white stories for colour. He had scarcely enough time to do that, without taking on a series of spot illustrations for someone else's books.
He would also probably have signed them - if not with his name in full, at least with an "H.", which can be found on illustrations he did do.
My thought is that these are not done by Hergé, but by someone else, possibly someone who was familiar with the emerging style that would become ligne claire, or at the very least on the periphery of the Belgian comics scene.
I've seen a book cover from the same publisher with an illustration identified as by Jan Wiegman, very much in this style, and he's a good contender, as he seems to have been verstile in what he drew (some of his sample work I have seen I would have mistaken for Alfred Bestall's Rupert the Bear).
He was Dutch, born in Zwolle, and the Van In company was in a Flemish speaking area, publishing books in that language, so that might be the reason that they used him.
Again, I can't say that it is his work, but it's possible. He's relatively well known (he was particularly noted for work he did in silhouette), so the snag is that he too would probably have been identified prominently - the cover I mention gave his name in letters almost as large as those of the authors.
It would be lovely to find out that it was someone who went on to work for the Studios Hergé, or that Hergé knew, but I don't honestly think that they are the work of the man himself.