Ru de Boer: half a century of ceramics

Ru de Boer has been involved in the making of ceramics for more than 50 years. In that period he managed to build up an impressive oeuvre. In this article we will discuss his life and work in more detail.


Ru de Boer was born on August 18, 1920 in Haarlem. After school he worked in the office, while in the evening he followed a drawing course at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague. Immediately after the war, he started working at a starting cartoon company. However, the company did not last long. Inspired by the ceramics of Groeneveldt, which he had seen at Sheherazade in The Hague, he entered the Zaalberg factory in Leiderdorp in 1946 at the age of 26.


Despite the lack of ceramic experience, he was hired as a decorator based on his drawing skills.
In the approximately 11 years that he worked at Zaalberg, he learned to turn and studied the glazing technique. In an interview with Hilbert Boxem from 1986, he says about the fact that he only came into contact with ceramics at a late age: “I have always felt that late start as a backlog… It did have the effect that I was more conscious. A strong sense of it must happen now and not tomorrow, because it should have been done yesterday. "
Because the employees at Zaalberg (almost) never used a personal signature, it is difficult to find out which products are his own. A well-known example of his work is the tile he designed in 1951 on the occasion of the City Play 'The youth discovers a new city' in The Hague, executed in a circulation of around 2000 pieces.

RAM Arnhem

In 1957 he came in contact with the 'RAM' earthenware factory in Arnhem. The company was originally founded in 1921 for the manufacture of plateel to the design of T.A.C. Colen burner. After the bankruptcy in 1935 a restart was made, after which the production mainly consisted of Delft blue, sometimes using the old models. With the arrival of Ru de Boer, a completely new direction was taken and a modern art department was established.
The artist was given a free hand on the condition that the products had to meet the demands of the people. In fact, he ran a one-man business within the company, which brought a number of benefits. This way, the artist did not have to worry about the commercial handling. He also had a well-equipped workshop including four gas ovens.
Until the final closing of the 'RAM' in 1969, Ru de Boer made a large amount of contemporary earthenware in a wide variety: bowls, vases, ashtrays, crockery, tiles etc. He often used chamotte clay for this, which made the work a robust character.
In addition to serial production and the manufacture of unique pieces, various occasional pieces were also produced. The 'more luxurious' pieces were often decorated in a style reminiscent of COBRA and which shows some similarity with the ceramic work of artists such as Dirk Hubers and Jaap Dommisse. The work was exhibited at the trade fair in Utrecht and the Handwerkmesse in Frankfurt a. Main. That the pieces were sold well is evident from the frequency with which they are now encountered at fairs and auctions.

The teacher

After the conclusion of the 'RAM', Ru de Boer started to teach at various institutions, such as the welfare of the army in Schaarsbergen (for which he had been working as a therapist since the mid-60s), the Academy of Visual Arts in Arnhem and between 1979 and 1985 the Minerva Academy in Groningen. He also worked as a creative therapist at the Hunerberg Institute in Nijmegen for four years. As a teacher, he has managed to get a large group of people enthusiastic about the ceramics profession. Especially in the field of glazes, he was a point of contact for many people during his long career. Some of his students are: Wim Borst, Toon Thijs, Kees Tillema, Jannie Blok and Ellen Waterschoot.

The Dutch Department of Ceramics

In the early 1970s there was an increasing need among ceramists for an organization that could represent the interests and ensure mutual contacts between the artists. The NVK was established in 1975 to meet these needs. The initiators for this were Rien Wensma, Hilbert Boxem and Stefan Bago, among others. From the beginning, Ru de Boer was very active in the department.
In February of 1975 the first issue of the "Ceramics" magazine was published, with De Boer as editor-in-chief, a role he would play for more than 10 years. In addition, he was involved in organizing theme weekends in the early years, during which the members discussed and carried out various topics. Until a few years ago he was still active in giving advice on material use to members of the Department.


As stated earlier, work at Zaalberg was never provided with personal signatures of employees. The work at the RAM was marked with the factory name, with very rarely the addition of his name and / or a date. The majority of Ru de Boer's own work is signed with his monogram, engraved or written. Sometimes the pieces were also dated.


Ru de Boer officially retired in 1985. This gave him the opportunity to spend more time making ceramics, this time as an independent ceramist. In his own studio he made free work and thematic series. The last work by Ru de Boer dates from 2002.
Ru de Boer died on 24 August 2010.
At Arthandel Artentique in Zoetermeer a nice selection of his work is for sale.

Video: Nazi plunder. Wikipedia audio article (April 2020).

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