Jan van der VaarT
EXPERIMENTAL CERAMICIST, REDESIGNING THE MEDIUM CLAY
JAN VAN DER VAART
1931_Born in The Hague (NL)
1958_First show at Visbank in Vlaardingen (NL)
1964_Solo show at Groninger Museum (NL)
1968-1993_ Head of ceramic department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy
1978-1981_ Multiples executed at Royal Tichelaar Makkum
1984-1997_Designs for Rosenthal AG, (DE)
1991_Retrospective show at Museum Booijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam (NL)
2000_Dies on November 8th 2000.
/ Centraal Museum, Utrecht
/ CODA (Apeldoorn)
/ Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
/ Kunstmuseum Den Haag
/ Groninger Museum
/ Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, Amersfoort/Rijswijk
/ Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
/ Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle/Heino
/ Museum of Modern Art, New York
/ Museum Arnhem
/ Nationaal Glasmuseum, Leerdam
/ Princessehof, Leeuwarden
/ Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
/ Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
/ Victoria and Albert Museum, Londen
Van der Vaart started in the 1950s as a ceramist. Right from the start his work had straight lines and geometric shapes. His geometric constructive style, the purity of the ceramics and the possibility of use are characteristics that were important to Van der Vaart. There is always a perfect unity of material, shape and glaze. He considered the form to be the most important, because decoration detracted from the monumentality of his works. This monumentality went hand in hand with the prevailing architecture of the period. In particular, the modernist architecture related to De Stijl, which speaks of clarity and considered simplicity, can be found in Van der Vaart’s work. His work is also related to the post-de Stijl abstract-geometric art production in the Netherlands.
During the sixties he started designing large vases. The unique pieces were received with great praise at various exhibitions and also regarded by collectors as true masterpieces. In 1967 it became possible to cast his designs and market them as ‘multiples’, making the work affordable for many. In the first decades of his career, Van der Vaart had to develop and distribute his designs himself. Later on, some designs were produced at Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum and from 1984 he made designs for Rosenthal AG in Germany for many years.
Especially when he was appointed senior lecturer in ceramics at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 1968, he was an innovator of ceramic art in the Netherlands. He trained new generations of ceramists here until 1993, as a result of which he had a major influence on the development of young ceramists such as Geert Lap, Wouter Dam Barbara Nanning, Mieke Blits, and Esther Stasse.
In 1991 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam presented a retrospective exhibition Jan van der Vaart 35 years of ceramics. At a later age he also started making glass designs for Royal Leerdam and for commissions from the Czech Republic.
Jan van der Vaart was already considered one of the most important Dutch ceramists of the 20th century during his lifetime. As the founder of a geometric abstract direction within post-war ceramics, he was extremely influential in The Netherlands and abroad.
Van der Vaart’s work is clear in form, focused on the utensil and undecorated. Vases were his preference, both in turning and construction or casting techniques. His designs are angular, simple and sober: many straight lines with gently sliding, often sloping surfaces. In addition, Van der Vaart makes ceramics in a more smoky, complex style. His work is also distinguished by the special tinted glazes he applied to his vases, mainly the bronze-colored glaze. But his white vases, with geometric shapes, are also generally regarded as his trademark. His work hardly harked back to predecessors, only influences from foreign ceramists could be seen in his work. Jan van der Vaart had great admiration for Hans Copers, a German ceramist and Lucie Rie, an English ceramist.