Presenting Bert-Jan's Tile Collection - Part 1.

Bert-Jan tell us - "Collecting pottery is something I grew up with. My grandfather started collecting some forty years ago and my father continued expanding the collection. I went hunting for ceramic treasures together with my father to lots of places in Holland. The focus of our collection hasn’t just been on three dimensional works such as vases and other objects but on tiles as well. The collection now holds an overview of works from many production centres, Gouda included. Of course it is never complete. I’m always trying to fill the gaps….."

This tile plaque below was made by Haagsche Plateelbakkerij Rozenburg - well known for its tile production. Most tiles depict scenes painted after famous works by members of the Haagsche School such as H.W. Mesdag and A. Mauve. Less well known are those tiles actually painted by the artists themselves. From 1884 - 1889 they worked in a small room in the attic of a mansion called 'Rozenburg'. The Rozenburg factory name was derived from this and was housed in the mansion. Very few of these tiles were made and as a result are extremely hard to find.

Gerke Henkes (1844 - 1927) was one of the artists who painted scenes of his own designs on Rozenburg tiles. Many decorated them to earn a few extra guilders. Henkes, who was a neighbour of H.W. Mesdag at the classy Laan van Meerdervoort in The Hague, did not need the money! This undoubtedly added to the quality of his workmanship. Henkes was also a lifelong friend of the famous Theodoor Colenbrander.

The man portrayed on this tile is seen on a number of Henkes paintings and sketches from the 1880's. These works have titles such as 'The Writer' or 'The Deacon'. The true identity of the man remains a mystery!

To the right is the back of the tile. The capital letter 'B' is a year code indicating it was made in the year 1886.




  Left is the signature of Gerke Henkes from the tile. It matches exactly with those found on his paintings, drawings and sketches. Mark on right is from a sketch.




Below we see a tile of a Bankiva rooster by Jan Schonk from Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland (PZH). The graphic artist Jan Schonk was famous for his woodcuts. He joined PZH in 1926. Schonk only worked three days a week in a separate room of the factory together with the decorator Jo Bennis. Bennis assisted him executing his work. Four years later in 1930, Schonk left after a disagreement with the director of PZH Willy Hoyng.

Before starting working in Gouda, Schonk was asked to design illustrations for a book entitled 'Misleide Majesteit - Zinnebeeldig Verhaal uit de Oudheid' (Misguided Majesty - Allegorical Story from Antiquity) by writer Israel Querido. He made twelve woodcuts, one for each chapter in the book. The second chapter had a woodcut entitled 'Dierenvergadering' (Gathering of Animals) depicting the furious animals from the forest opposing His Majesty Bashuraka the Lion, who kills animals not just for food, but because he has the power to do so. At one point the animals have had enough, enraged they gather together to seek Bashuraka and force him to stop killing at his will. This moment is shown by the 'Dierenvergadering'.

This specific woodcut is important in respect to the tiles Schonk made at PZH from 1926 onwards. So far, four tile scenes have been traced that show animals from this woodcut, the Bankiva rooster is one of them. Most of his tiles were translated from his woodcuts into ceramics. On close inspection of the tiles, you can actually see Schonk traded palm wood for gypsum and used his gouges to carve the animals in a tile mould. With ceramic glazes colour dimension was added to the otherwise black and white woodcuts. Glazes with strong opposing colours, undoubtedly developed by PZH's glaze wizard Herman Verlée, were used. This dramatic effect complemented the furious nature of the animals of the 'Dierenvergadering'.

Back of the tile shows the usual PZH markings and the characteristic handwriting of Schonk himself. The monogram of Schonk to lower left of the scene is similar to that used by Schonk to sign his woodcuts.






Set of two tiles (15 cm x 15 cm each excluding the frame) are shown below depicting a boy and girl in traditional Dutch costume. Date around 1908 - maybe early 1909. From the Porceleinfabriek De Kroon factory in the village of Noordwijk. Dutch costume tiles scenes were more or less invented by the artist Cornelis de Bruin around 1902 while working for the Plateelbakkerij De Distel at Amsterdam. De Bruin copied works of the Belgian artist Henri Cassiers. There are 24 regional costume scenes on De Distel Amsterdam tiles. The product was a huge success and regional costume tiles from other factories such as Potterij Rembrandt and Faiencefabriek Holland soon followed.

Any pottery made by De Kroon is exceedingly rare - only a total of about 120 pieces have been traced so far. The number of tile products known does not even reach the number of digits on both your hands! De Kroon's own designer Henri Breetvelt is probably the artist behind the design. Recently, two tiles surfaced that are decorated with the same two scenes - painted in blue - made at the Société Céramique Maastricht. These date from the time Breetvelt was working there. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume Breetvelt took his designs to Noordwijk in 1906 when the factory started production.

Unique among regional costume tiles is the modernistic character of the design. Little detail and strikingly bright colours - very different from the highly figurative costumes painted on tiles made by other factories at the time. De Kroon tiles are certainly unique in their design. One of them has the initials of decorator Johannes de Vries, who worked and lived in Noordwijk from the beginning of 1908 until March 1909, when he started working at the Amphora works in Oegstgeest.

Tile back shows the characteristic crown mark of De Kroon (The Crown) and the initials of decorator J. de Vries.







This tile was made by Plateelbakkerij De Distel in Amsterdam. It shows the menu of the wedding dinner of De Distel's director Jacobus M. Lob and is dated 12 April 1910. A story says that Lob married Liberta Wolff for her money, needing it to buy the famous pottery works in Amsterdam of Voorheen Amstelhoek. Lob indeed bought it the same year! It is a nice personal link to the director of De Distel who had the menu tile made in his own factory.

Distel mark on the tile back. Possibly the signature of decorator 'A. Aam' of whom sadly nothing is known.






This small tile plaque (20 cm x 15 cm) was originally in an oak frame. It is by Cornelis de Bruin and made by Plateelbakkerij Delft, Hilversum. It shows a typical rural scene for De Bruin who was clearly an impressionist artist. The scene has rather a lot of detail added to it - not always seen in De Bruin paintings. This could indicate it was a commission piece. To the signature 'Corns de Bruin' he added the words 'pinxit original'. Pinxit being Latin for 'painted by' and rather surprising for a Dutch artist, the English word 'original'.

Tile back shows even more of the English language. The words 'ORIGINAL' and 'Executed by Corns de Bruin' are stamped in purple ink. Altogether a curious blend of markings not seen on any other known ceramic painting by De Bruin!

I bought the tile at an estate sale in the UK. The former owners could not tell me anything about the tile provenance. With the mark being in English it was quite probably made specifically for a customer in the UK.

Markings seen in the bottom left corner of the scene are shown enlarged.







Tile with modernistic fish design from around 1950. A unique piece by Willem van Norden of the Creative Arts Department of Goedewaagen, Gouda.
After WW2 many changes were taking place in the ceramics business resulting in different demands and new aesthetic concepts. The Goedewaagen factory and its principal employees like Van Norden had to adapt. Van Norden was skilled as an artist and craftsman and he kept the Creative Arts Department running almost entirely by himself. His influence as a designer at Goedewaagen lessened after 1945. From 1950 onwards he devoted most of his time to making unique pieces which were sold for high prices. He still used some techniques and design themes from the pre-war period.

The new spirit of the time did not go unnoticed and around 1950 Van Norden created a series of unique tiles in a totally modern design scheme and bright colours. Probably inspired by the 'CoBrA' group or artists like Picasso and Miró. Trial pieces like this tile were decorated using a wax-resist method in which the black outlines of the décor were painted using a water repellent pigment. The empty spaces were then filled with powdered coloured glaze and water. Together with unique designs on vases, the commercial 'Inca-Décor' range was born. Inca pieces are much sought after by collectors in Holland. Most were not executed by Van Norden himself but by a number of skilled painters working in the general paint room.

Artistically unique items were signed by Van Norden (vN or WHvN) as can be seen on the picture of the back of this tile. Few of these test pieces survive to this day. Around fifteen similar tiles are in the Goedewaagen company collection.




Collection of Nico van EijkBert-Jan Tile Collection Part 2