Oosterman, Jan

First name: 
Year of birth: 
Country of birth: 
The Netherlands
Year of death: 

Johannes Joseph Oosterman is born on 19 March 1911 in Blaricum (NL). His father, Jan Oosterman Senior created many monumental wallpaintings for Catholic churches in the Netherlands. He gives his son the first lessons in painting. As a child Jan Jr. stays several years in Germany. After return he visits the primary school in Blaricum. Then he followed the MULO in Hilversum. He quitted from school and becomes a gardener. Jan is very well in drawing garden designs in perspective. After some time working as a landscaper he goes, led by his father, in Amsterdam for painting portraits.

In World War II he is arrested and sent to camp Amersfoort. Here he escapes by simply leaving the camp by bike. Already during the war plans were made for a ceramic studio. The first lessons in ceramics were taught by the German ceramist Prof. Albert Schröder, who was hiding in the parental house. By the end of the war start Oosterman started a studio at Herenstraat 10b in Hilversum with the name "Jan Oosterman Ceramics". Here mainly artistic, hand decorated services were made with decorations like tulips, rooster and S-shaped stripes. But also Maria figurines, crucifixes and the like. In 1949 the company closed.

Oosterman now takes lessons in throwing from Gerrit de Blanken in Leiderdorp. He is befriended with Luigi de Lerma and maintains good contacts with Dirk Hubers. The Spanish artists Miró and Picasso have a big influence on him. At the beginning of the 1950s, he receives the first monumental commissions for schools, churches and Council houses, such as those for the R.C. Church St. Lidwina in Purmerend. About 1957 Jan Oosterman, together with his future wife and former pupil Anne Weitjens, makes a huge piece for the Town Hall of Heusden and in 1958 the large mosaic 'The Sisters ' for the facade of the G.S.A. (Goois Creative Craft) at Kerkbrink in Hilversum. 

But in the second half of the 1950s Oosterman returns back to the simple pots and vases with monochrome lead glazes. Something later turned vases, dishes and bowls with a incised sgraffito decoration occur. From 1955 to 1968 Jan Oosterman lives in Bussum. He runs here, along with his later wife Anne Weitjens, during the period 1963-1974 Galerie De Berenkuil. In 1965 he receives the municipal culture prize. From 1969 to 1976 Oosterman lives and works with his wife Anne in a farm at Nieuweweg 1 in Breukelen. Anne often develops the glazes. Galerie De Berenkuil is here continued in the converted part. In 1973 Oosterman started, with the support De Neeve and Premsela, the Ceramic Work Centre in Heusden. This location turned out to be much too small and too isolated. It moved to 's-Hertogenbosch and is nowadays settled in Oisterwijk (EKWC).

Jan Oosterman and his wife Anne Weitjens emigrated in 1976 to France and settled in Rousset-les-Vignes in the Drôme region in southern France. In France Jan had a heart attack and the couple moved back ti theNetherlands in 1988. They settled in the house of the gardener in the mansion Goudestein at river de Vecht in Maarssen. Jan passed away there on 27 August 1996. In 1990 the then 79-year-old Oosterman tells in the radio program "A life long" about his mental crisisses. "You are not future-orientated and more vulnerable. The brevity determines your thought. I am extremely busy with death, already as a boy in Blaricum. But the depressed mood in response also gives inspiration ".

In 1969 Oosterman created a number of huge plates and plastics wit surrealistic decorations. And from 1971 onwards he creates the ceramic sheet in stoneware and porcelain. These ceramic sheets are the body for various paintings. These sheets are 'woven', which means that they are constructed from vertical and horizontal scrolls, making extra strength. The theme in these sheets are one time erotic, some times more abstract or difficult to indicate.

The motif of a couple or more people, chairs, helicopters, insects, his own dog Poen (with or without legs and floating) and tents are common. Also he expresses his feeling for authority often. Humility so, arising from his reserved attitude. Other themes that regularly recur in his work are: voyeurism, father/son relationships and above all the death. thrown Ceramic tents in both stoneware and porcelain and turned close bulbs arose next to the plates. Also ceramic booklets with own poems or those by Bert Schierbeek.

In the 1980s Jan and Anne make in France for the first time the visages, sleeve figures and oval discs with subtle eyes, nose and mouth. In the 1990s he makes plenty of ceramic sheets. The motif of the surrounding nature, willows, cows and birds painted in ceramics almost in an impressionist manner. Oosterman is a loner in making ceramic work as a painter. His work in the last years is a poetic fusion of ceramic and painterly qualities. For the artist is the atmosphere, which evokes a work, decisive. It is not a story, it has a thought.

The chicks, the doves, the water in the locks, the heron and the cows, all these images soften his depression. The work of Oosterman is light-footed and melancholy. The landscape, the people in it or the absence of it (remember the Chair and a bike) are recurring themes (from an interview with Mieke Spruit-Ledeboer in december 2011).

RKD (Rijksbureau Kunsthistorische Documentatie) acquisitions 1999 - Mr. G.J. Nijland in Bilthoven donated a large collection of photos and negatives concerning the ceramist Jan Oosterman (1911-1996). During the years 1956-1996 Mr Nijland, veterinary and amateur photographer, and his wife, J.H. Nijland-Boy collected the work of Oosterman and photographed his life and work. The donation is a beautiful addition to the Jan Oosterman archive acquired in 1993. 

2012. additional data by eye-witness David Kroes, for which heartfelt thanks.

Images: Portrait Jan Oosterman (source Katholiek Bouwblad 1957-58); portrait Jan Oosterman 1958 (source 1958/12 Mededlingenblad van Vrienden Nederlandse ceramiek); Jan Oosterman Exhibition Gallery Amphora 1986 (photo G.J. Nadarajah); Jan Oosterman in Breukelen 1995, a year before his death (photo G.J. Nijland); Jan Oosterman and Anne Weitjens in Galerie Kapelhuis, Amersfoort (photo G.J. Nadarajah); Tabernacle with tiles depicting the last supper, Chapel Purmerend (source Katholiek Bouwblad 1957-58); huge so called "Oogkom" (eye bowl) with incised decoration, 1958 (collection Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam);  three signatures (Capriolus collection).


  • Redeker, H., Jan Oosterman, een opmerkelijke ceramisch kunstenaar, in: Medelingenblad Vrienden van de Nederlandse Ceramiek, nr.12, 1958.
  • Houtzager, Dr. M. Elisabeth, Nederlandse Ceramiek 1945-1970, Centraal Museum.
  • Spruit-Ledeboer, Mieke G., Nederlandse Keramiek 1900-1975, Assen 1977.
  • Duits, Thimo te - Jan Oosterman, een portret in: Glas &amp, Keramiek oktober, november, december 1992.
  • Jan Oosterman - een overzicht van zijn keramisch werk, St. Keramisch Werkcentrum Heusden / Gem. Museum Het Princessehof Leeuwarden 1980 /1981.
  • Nederlandse Keramiek, catalogus bij de tentoonstelling van hedendaagse Nederlandse keramiek. Koninklijke Academie voor Kunst en vormgeving, Den Bosch 1958.
  • 100 Nederlandse keramisten, Galerij de Arkel, Boxtel 1974.
  • Keramiekkollektie, met een inleiding van Karin Gaillard, dienst Beeldende Kunst, s-Hertogenbosch, 1983.
  • Hernink, Corinne, Een leven lang, Jan Oosterman (79), keramisch ontwerper, Uitzending Radio 5, 14.09.1990.
  • Mensch, Ed van "De twee levens van De Zusters, een muurmozaiek van Jan Oosterman, in: Eigen Perk, jrg. 2009/4.