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Earthenware in Stijl - The history of Potterie Kennemerland (1920-1942)
Jugs; design and decoration of multicoloured jug attributed to C.J. Gelings, c. 1930, glazed jugs 1932-1942, private collection. Photography by Erik and Petra Hesmerg.

THE HAGUE.- The Gemeentemuseum has a unique collection of Dutch ceramics, including some fine examples of earthenware from Potterie Kennemerland, one of the few manufacturers in the interwar period to focus exclusively on the production of decorative earthenware with the characteristic motifs of the De Stijl movement. The exhibition looks at the period when the factory was located in Velsen (1920-1942), showing both its Modernist earthenware from the 1920s and the ‘crisis earthenware’ of the 1930s.

Potterie Kennemerland was established in Velsen in 1920 by Koen Mertens (1889-1953) and Eelke Snel (1899-1939), who had previously helped found De Vier Paddenstoelen in Utrecht. Over the course of just over 20 years Potterie Kennemerland developed a range of products that influenced the look of Dutch interiors in the period between the wars.

The Velsen earthenware from the first decade of the factory’s existence features a geometric form language and decorative style that was closely related to De Stijl. The business grew rapidly, and from the second half of the 1920s the factory’s innovative designs were produced in series. In 1929 the factory took on designer Karl J. Gellings (1892-1959), who introduced a new plastic form language and Expressionist palette in the style of the Amsterdam School, creating art objects, decorative vases and animal figures. After this interlude, in order to survive the economic crisis the factory produced cheaper, glazed earthenware known as ‘crisis earthenware’ which proved very popular with the public. The unique pieces of Velsen earthenware on display in the exhibition allow visitors to track this development.

A detailed study on Potterie Kennemerland by Titus M. Eliëns, Head of Collections at the Gemeentemuseum, has been published to accompany the exhibition. It is lavishly illustrated, with photographs by Erik and Petra Hesmerg (price EUR 22.95).

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