Jan van Stolk (1920-1997)

Jan van Stolk was born in 1920 in Santa Brigida, on the island of Gran Canaria. Following the death of his father, his mother, Sophie van der Does de Willebois (1891-1961), remarried to Luigi de Lerma (1907-1965), an Italian ceramist. After a few wanderings in Southern Europe, the family came to the Netherlands in 1934 and went to live in Groenekan, where Sophie and Luigi started a pottery in 1935.

Large lidded pot by Jan van Stolk with a small dragonlike figurine on top.

In addition to a few years of training at the Arnhem Academy of Visual Arts (between 1940 and 1943; he was taught here by Gijs Jacobs van den Hof, among others), Jan van Stolk learned a lot from his stepfather and his mother Sophie de Lerma. It must be assumed that Jan van Stolk also cooperated in his parents’ pottery, but not much is known about that.

From 1943 he lived in Nijmegen, where he started his own studio in 1946. In 1953 he moved to Oosterbeek. From the beginning he worked with students, who mainly assisted him with the decoration of the pieces that came from the turntable. The most famous is undoubtedly Jaap Dommisse, but artists such as Han Cornelissens, Wim Fiege, Marianna Franken and Simon Engelhard have also spent shorter or longer periods in his studio.

The early work of Van Stolk very much shows the Italian influence of his stepfather. The glazes that were used for the modern decorations that Simon Engelhard applied to Van Stolk’s work around 1950-1952 still have a very Mediterranean feel to it. A few years later Van Stolk started to focus on ingrained decoration, often on a black background. The first “table bell candlesticks” were also created during this period, figurines that could serve as candlesticks and table bell. In the mid-1960s, more figurative pieces were made, including large, primitive animals, heavily executed in large chamotte clay. The decorations have always been simple and unpretentious. As previously indicated, they were often applied by assistants. As far as we know, only Jaap Dommisse and Simon Engelhard have marked pieces with their own personal signature, except for one item known to us that has the initials RB next to the VS initials.

Jan van Stolk died in 1997. In the approximately 50 years of his active career, he has left behind a large number of ceramic works of art. He has participated in many exhibitions and has had a great influence on a large group of young artists, especially from the Arnhem / Nijmegen area.