Mesdag & Colenbrander at the Mesdag Museum, Den Haag

Day and Night, Theo Colenbrander, 1885, porcelain, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Photo: Erik en Petra Hesmerg, courtesy Mesdag Collection

A small exhibition recently opened at the Mesdag Collection along the Laan van Meerdervoort in the Hague. It focuses on a shared passion for ceramics between the Mesdags and Dutch designer Theo Colenbrander.

Colenbrander (1841 – 1930) trained as architect and spent time in Paris. By the time Willem and Sientje Mesdag came to know him, he had settled in The Hague, was a member of Pulchri and a designer for The Hague Pottery Factory Rozenburg.

From the very start, Mesdag invested in this pottery factory. He soon became an influential board member. The couple collected many now famous sets designed by Colenbrander. The ceramics were not for use, but to display.

The artists-couple loved Colenbrander’s designs so much, they involved him in the interior design of their home. Their personal collection numbered over a hundred sets and items. Unfortunately, this private collection was sold after Mesdag died.

Now here is a unique chance to see many Colenbrander works exhibited together. The exhibition consists of items from the museum’s own collection, as well as loans from the The Hague Gemeente Museum and Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

Guest-curators and photographers Erik and Petra Hesmerg, as well as the museum’s curator Renske Suijver, created a special display. Works are inside special exhibition cases. Tall and small vases, wild designs and vibrant colours make for an interesting show. Moreover, visitors can admire items front, sides, back. A must: Colenbrander designs sprawl all over surfaces.

Examples of the finished products are displayed in the first room on the ground floor. In the second room, visitors find models Colenbrander created. These reveal more of the production-process.

Colenbrander translated his “visions” as designs on biscuit and coloured these using watercolour paints. As photos illustrate, factory workers then copied the designs, after which further steps in the production process followed.

Visitors come across “turban vases”, a “Constantinople” plate, as well as sets called “Tulip”, “Day and Night”, “Peacock”. These are now much sought after by collectors. After all: each single piece is unique!

The production process was expensive. Colenbrander was difficult to please. Within a few years, he left the factory. Later, he shortly worked for another pottery factory, near Gouda. Much later, fans of his unique designs set up a factory near Arnhem where he continued to create, well into his eighties.

On the second floor, visitors come across works from this RAM-period. Experts may point out many differences between the Rozenburg and RAM periods? To ordinary visitors the fantastic Colenbrander designs have hardly changed.

On the floor lies a striking carpet. “Fishes” is a replica of a carpet Colenbrander designed. A visit continous by leaving the former home and entering Mesdag’s former museum. Here, more examples of Colenbrander’s art are displayed.

This unique exhibition should appeal to a wide range of visitors: young artists, designers, museologist, lovers of Art Noveau and related styles, ceramic enthusiasts, fans of Theo Colenbrander’s works, as well as those unfamiliar with his designs.   Kate    20th March 2019


Mesdag Collection, Laan van Meerdervoort 7F, The Hague: “Mesdag & Colenbrander, A Shared Fascination with Ceramics” welcomes visitors Wednesday – Sunday from 12:00 – 17:00, till 23th of June 2019.    Kate    20th March 2019