Von Gudenberg quickly found his way in the artistic scene in The Hague. Among others, he met a young architect who had lived in Paris for some years and had worked on the 1867 World Exhibition: Theo Colenbrander.
Capricious representations of Indonesia’s natural beauty, voluptuous Arabian mosques and the powerful expressiveness of African artefacts - he drank it all in. In the applied arts department of the French pavilion he saw how contemporary artists found inspiration in the exotic. Thus, Colenbrander built an artistic reservoir that would serve him all his life.
Just the right man
And when Von Gudenberg needed someone for his new venture, someone creative and with a gift for drawing and design, Colenbrander seemed just the right man.
One year later, Von Gudenberg left Delft to found his own earthenware factory in The Hague. It wasn’t much of a venture: a few brick-built ovens in a small, derelict building. Von Gudenberg’s right-hand man was a classmate from Delft, Daniël Harkink, who proved to be invaluable in all things technical. Their first products were in the traditional Delft style.
Pavilion on the World Exhibition 1867 in Parijs
Wilhelm Wolff Freiherr von Gudenberg
And yet it was in The Hague that an artistic industry rose that would become world famous. Wilhelm Wolff Freiherr von Gudenberg was its driving force. Despite his noble name he was the son of an earthenware manufacturer, and he had been raised through study and work to follow in his father’s footsteps. To this end, Von Gudenberg in 1882 enrolled at the Polytechnische School (now the University of Technology) in Delft. He even worked at De Porceleyne Fles for a period - not for the pay involved but to learn the secrets of the trade.
Colenbrander had been involved there as assistant to the Dutch delegation. In Paris all Western nations proudly exhibited their progress’ newest results. Non-Western countries mostly showed their traditional cultures and products. And the Exhibition’s organizers were not shy to emphasize the contrast between the two, for extra effect. The pavilions showing non-Western countries - most of which were under Western colonial regimes - had been designed by French architects with considerable theatrical flair. They constructed replicas (to scale) of exotic buildings, decorating these further with extravagant quasi-authentic details. Among other things, they built a temple made up of elements copied from not one but three Egyptian temples. Colenbrander spent much time among these hyper-exotic and often garish pavilions, as though in a tale from Arabian Nights.
Late nineteenth-century The Hague was not where things were happening. The zenith of the Hague School had passed and local developments in the arts lacked its power of persuasion. The ‘hip’ scene had moved to the nation’s capital, Amsterdam. There, they found a creative ferment: people experimented and held discussions, and new insights were developed into what art was or should be. From now on, artists would have to play a role in society and its developments. Art was supposed to be of service to the common people as well. The working classes should be raised up from their physical and spiritual poverty, and art and design had to take the lead or at least contribute. In this atmosphere the engagé trend grew that is now known as Nieuwe Kunst.
Rozenburg (till 1914)