Johannes (Jan) Theodorus Schonk Biography

Johannes (Jan) Theodorus Schonk




Johannes (Jan) Theodorus Schonk, Dutch ceramist, graphic artist, graphic designer, illustrator, painter and draftsman was born in Schiedam, Netherlands on June 11, 1889. Schonk studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Technical Sciences in Rotterdam with Simon Moulijn in Rotterdam.

Between 1925 and 1930 he worked as a freelance designer in Gouda, Holland at the Plateelbakkerij South Holland (PZH) ceramic studios decorating vases, pots and tiles. Schonk only worked three days a week in a separate room of the factory together with the decorator Jo Bennis. Bennis assisted him executing his work. Four years later in 1930, Schonk left after a disagreement with the director of PZH Willy Hoyng. For a short time he then designed animal figure ceramics for Ivora as a graphic artist.

Before he had started his work in Gouda he had been asked to design a book entitled 'Misleide Majesteit - Zinnebeeldig Verhaal uit de Oudheid' (Misguided Majesty - Allegorical Stories from Antiquity) by writer Israel Querido. Schonk created twelve woodcuts, one for each chapter in the book. The second chapter had a woodcut entitled 'Dierenvergadering' (Gathering of Animals) depicting the furious animals from the forest opposing His Majesty Bashuraka the Lion, who kills animals not just for food, but because he has the power to do so. At one point the animals have had enough, enraged they gather together to seek Bashuraka and force him to stop killing at his will. Many of his tiles were informed by these early woodcuts.

After 1931 he devoted himself completely to his graphic work, which can be compared with fellow countryman M.C. Escher’s early work – large masses, varying planes, lines and forms that create rhythmic subjects.

Jan Schonk died on November 12, 1976 in Soest, Germany.