History & Culture Delft

Fifty shades of blue

Royal Delft

The brush of pottery painter Simon van Oosten goes accurately back and forth. Arches of black paint forms a border of flowers on a large plate. On his desk a bowl of water, charcoal for the first sketch, a white tile to dilute the paint and twenty or so brushes of which he cuts the end tips himself.

Simon started out as an intern for master painter, as a 17-year-old boy, at the Royal Delft. Like all his predecessors, since its founding days in 1653, who wanted to learn Delftware the artisan way. And don’t think of it lightly. “After four or five years, you can paint the basic decorations,” explains Simon. “If you also want to master landscapes, figurines and create bespoke designs, add another five years.

The beauty is just in that single color.

It is not just about painting, you also need to get a feel for the material. Sometimes clay absorbes more paint. That is why you should always remain sharp. And even the location in the oven has effect on the final color.” The paint will turn into its characteristic Delft blue color after baking.

Don’t you find it boring, working with just blue (black actually) for over 35 years, day in day out? “No, the beauty is just in that single color. You have to make do with it. That’s the challenge sometimes. At the Royal Delft there is a large replica of the Night Watch (Nachtwacht) by Rembrandt. Without yellow, red or green. Only various shades of blue. So,” he adds with a wink, “sometimes I think we have a more difficult task than Rembrandt ever had.”

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