Fantastical creatures: ceramics by Hans de Jong

Posted on 10 January 2018

Ceramic artist Hans de Jong (1932-2011) modelled clay into fantastical creatures and playful figures with names like Crybaby, Flyfrog, Flatlander and His Transparency. With no concern for the possible functions of his objects, he let humour and craftsmanship go hand in hand.

No message or meaning

Hans de Jong was a member of a generation of Dutch ceramicists – like Lies Cosijn, Jan de Rooden, Johnny Rolf, Johan van Loon and Helly Oestreicher – who were not interested in producing functional pottery. “I can only make things I like myself, without wanting to express any message or meaning, without even thinking what use should be made of them or where they are going”, he said.


The luxury of absolute superfluity

Both De Jong’s figurative objects and his vessels offer, as he himself put it, ‘the luxury of absolute superfluity’. You can do almost nothing with them except look at them – but the complexity of the skin and graphic details provides plenty to see.


Oeuvre overview in Gemeentemuseum The Hague

Gemeentemuseum The Hague shows the first exhibition since the artist’s death to survey his entire oeuvre. It comprises around 70 pieces from the period between 1959 and the end of 2001. The emphasis is on the 1960s and ’70s – a period when ceramics were securing a large measure of autonomy as an independent art form. It was a new era in Dutch ceramics, during which the potential of the material was being ever more ingeniously exploited and artists were playing with the balance between material and negative space, making their objects more expressive and closer to sculpture.

Polder vase on loan

On loan from the Kunstconsult collection is a subtle Polder vase. The vase reflects the atmosphere of the landscape in which the artist lived and worked in the 1970’s: the Beemster polder, that was created in the 17th Century, and has the UNESCO World Heritage Status nowadays.


Playful ‘puppets’

Many objects in the exhibition are typical examples of Hans de Jong’s playful approach. He himself invariably referred to his figures as ‘puppets’, reflecting his love of puppetry and theatre in general. In 1957 he had created a series of masks for the first production at Marijke and Sieto Hoving’s Cabaret Tingel-Tangel. In an interview published in the De Telegraaf newspaper in 1961, he said “During my student years, I spent a lot of time on a puppet theatre, for which I made all the puppets, and that was, I think, the starting point for the coloured sculpture I produce now…”.



Hans de Jong. Ceramic artist, Gemeentemuseum The Hague, until February 18, 2018.


Images: Polder vase: Dennis A-Tjak. Vuurmannetje: Erik Rijper


© Kunstconsult – 20th century art | objects

Reproduction and distribution of this text is only allowed with correct reference.