T.A.C. (Theodoor Christiaan Adriaan) Colenbrander (Dutch, 1841–1930); manufactured by Plateelbakkerij Ram (Dutch, 1921–35)
Arnhem, The Netherlands
h. 10 1/8 in., diam. 5 1/2 in. (h. 25.7 cm, diam. 14 cm)
Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2010 (2010.346)
Though he originally trained as an architect, by the mid-1880s, T .A. C. Colenbrander (the initials he was known by do not match the order of his given names) he become, like the British Christopher Dresser, one of the world's first industrial designers. Colenbrander performed work-for-hire jobs for a variety of manufacturers. He is best known as a designer of ceramics (notably for the Rozenburg factory in The Hague during the 1880s) and carpets. In 1921 he was appointed design director at artist-dealer N. H. (Henri) van Lerven's newly formed Plateelbakkerij Ram (Ram Pottery) in Arnhem, where he produced some of his most astonishing and original work. On this vase free-flowing lines contain areas filled with contrasting saturated colors, suggesting inkblots or artfully splattered paint. An ambiguous balance between positive and negative lends vibrant dynamism that presages the psychedelic art of a half century later. Although Colenbrander's enigmatic abstract designs seemingly avoid links with precedent or tradition, his exuberant colors and patterns reflect his generation's growing awareness of Islamic art, especially from Java, then a Dutch colony. His unusual palette may also reflect concurrent experiments by avant-garde Expressionist artists who used color to suggest emotions and moods.