White Delft – Not just Blue

23 November 2013 – 21 March 2014

The history of Delft is mainly written in blue but in fact Dutch delftware has taken many forms, from blue-and-white to vivid polychrome. Blue Delft is often seen as a symbol of Dutch wealth in the Netherlands’ seventeenth-century Golden Age and the product is still much loved in the Netherlands and famous around the world. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag possesses one of the largest and finest collections of Dutch delftware anywhere in the world. A new exhibition now reveals the major importance of plain white Delft to the Delft faience industry down the centuries. This is the first exhibition ever to focus on the plain, undecorated product. Combined with an installation of colourful fabric designs by Hague artist Christie van der Haak, the white Delft exhibits form a unique presentation with a strong contemporary feel.

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) began to import oriental porcelain into the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century. With their shiny surfaces, beautiful painted decoration and exotic shapes, the new wares appealed enormously to the public but only the wealthy could afford to buy them. The Delft potteries rose to the challenge and strove to improve their earthenware products to imitate the outward appearance of oriental porcelain. The refined and luxurious earthenware they succeeded in producing was soon seen worldwide as the best alternative to genuine (export) porcelain. It was even known as ‘Delft porcelain’. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Delft was the undisputed world leader in the production of these ‘tin-glazed’ wares.

A vast range of domestic and ornamental items were produced, in both plain white and decorated versions. In eighteenth-century Dutch interiors the two were used side by side. The White Delft exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag casts light on the function of white Delft, its place in historic Dutch interiors and its relationship to the better-known blue Delft. It also addresses the question of whether all ‘white Delft’ was actually produced in Delft.

Installation by Christie van der Haak

Supplemented by a number of substantial loans from private collectors, the Gemeentemuseum’s collection of white Delft is evocatively presented as part of an installation created by Hague artist Christie van der Haak (b. 1950), working in collaboration with Asmir Ademagic (b. 1969). The Fabricut company of America has recently launched a collection of fabrics designed by Christie van der Haak on the international market. The Christie van der Haak Collection consists of sumptuous upholstery, wall covering and curtaining fabrics. It is also presented as part of the exhibition.

In view of the fascination with repeat patterns revealed in her paintings, it is hardly surprising that in recent years Van der Haak has turned her hand to fabric design. She uses floral and abstract motifs mirrored and doubled to form complex patterns in muted or vibrant colours. The patterned fabrics seem the perfect outcome of the quest that is evident in her paintings. And the wealth of shapes and colours create the perfect foil for the white Delft.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book in Dutch and English (Waanders, € 39.90).

This exhibition is sponsored by Aronson Antiquairs, Silvera Home and Fabricut S. Harris. It is being held thanks to the Maurits van der Laar gallery.