Craftsmanship

 

1844-1870
Victor BOCH, an experienced financial businessman, takes the direction of the SNC Boch Frères. He gets assistance from the faience factories of the family (Septfontaines, Mettlach and Wallerfangen) who sell him ready-to-use copperplates, so he can start the production immediately. Amongst the plates they sold to Keramis between 1844 and 1846 we mention Bayern landscapes and views of the Rhine, genre scenes, decors inspired by the Orient, the decor “Theetrinker”. The engravings on these plates, mostly applied by chisel and stamp, were used for reproduction through impression.

The very first decors were monochrome, mostly in bleu or black impression, and have a factory stamp with large banner in general, and are sometimes produced in sister factories. Sometimes they are bicolour, black for the centre decoration and another colour for the border decoration. Examples are:

- Decor in black: genre scenes, hunting scenes
- Decor in bleu: Laurier B.F., Orient, Orient II, Grand bouquet, Ronda, GG
- Decor in black or in bleu: Theetrinker, Wild rose, Clyde Scenery
- Decor in bleu or in manganese: Althea, Althea on order, Jardinière, Hollyhock.
- Some of these decors are printed in a slightly blurred way for the English and American customers who love this kind of illustrations.

Around 1860 the production of polychrome pieces starts with accents above or underneath the glazing, sometimes the same decors are produced in monochrome and in polychrome:

- Decors inspired by the Orient and/or antique decors: Pompeia and Pompei, Japonica, Canton with green dominant colour and later Canton with other dominant colours, Nanking, Yedo, Dames chinoises (Chinese ladies), Timor, …
- Other types of polychrome decors: Perdrix, Pérou, Charlotte II, romantic and family scenes with children.
The production of decors inspired by the Orient continues during the next period.

Romantic scenes, city views, saints or saints with their attributes, Napoleons battles, humoristic scenes and “combles” (the height of), travelling by railway, mostly edited in series of 12, are favourite subjects for faience decors. Messrs. MOUZIN (Henri-Joseph, Henry and Charles or Carl) are the most important engravers (Fery, 2000).

Since that period, Boch Frères has distributed tons of white faience products all over the world, without a decor, sometimes enhanced with a relief poured in the mass.

During this period, Victor BOCH completes the production of faience with the fabrication of fine pottery with a decor of slip and with gilded accents. Those pieces of fine pottery, in the manner of Palissy, are mostly marked in relief with a yellow dot. Besides, the decors for pieces for daily use are influenced by Luxemburg and England, but also by decors from Strasbourg and the decors of the “Manufacture de Tournai” (Tournai factory) they were allowed to use after the purchase in 1851. In this way, the Tournai decor named “à la mouche” (by MOUZIN at the BOCH factory) is now called “Grand Bouquet” or “Ronda”.

The production included tableware, coffee and tea-sets, toilet-sets (water-basin, bidet, chamber pot,…), various objects in fine faience and some religious objects.

1870-1892
Around 1874, due to the passionate interest of collectors of old faience pieces, Victor BOCH hires Dutchman from Maastricht, some already experienced after years of work in Delft. These Dutch faience painters brought their knowledge, experience and skills. Thanks to their collaboration the old working methods were applied on different clay than the potters in Delft. A period of reproduction of decors is followed by a period of innovation, among others with the polychrome decors on white background, or bleu, green or black, and afterwards new decors. For further information on these objects in Delft style, we refer to the work “150 years”.

Luxury faience is decorated with Delft decors, and becomes a speciality of the “Manufacture” in a division named “la Chambre des peintres hollandais” (the Holland painter’s chamber), with a hand painted signature of the interlaced letters “B, F, K“ (Boch frères Keramis) on the bottom of the pieces. These artistic products in Delft style are hand painted, instead of being decorated with a usual printed decor. Hundreds of thousand pieces are sold worldwide through a fully illustrated catalogue. The catalogue/pricelist of 1887, mainly attended to Delft pieces, contains 16 pages with illustrations of Delft pieces and some pages with illustrations of “Kioto et fonds divers” (Kioto and various backgrounds), of “Fond bleu Sèvres doré” (background gilded bleu Sèvres), “Barbotine” (ceramic slip) and “Rhodes” and as much pages with the prices! In 1887, even an addendum is at the catalogue. The production of these Delft style pieces doesn’t stop in 1892 while the catalogue/pricelist of 1899 still contains 26 pages of Delft illustrations and 3 pages representations of artistic paintings on glazing and as much pages with prices ! Besides, Persian and Chinese decors, Rouen decors, decors from Saint-Amand-les-Eaux and from Sèvres are produced.

Besides, the faience factory continues to produce tableware with old printed decors, as illustrated in the 1877 pricelist, among others the decors Ronda, Saxe, Grand Bouquet, Glands, Willow, Clyde Scenery, Althea blurred, Jardinière blurred, Charlotte, Ronce and Canton with green background.

The same catalogue of 1877 shows also new decors like the “Vieux Rouen” and new forms like embellished or shiny dessert ware. Lenglez and other authors do affirm that the painters, during this delft period, were asked to imitate also Rouen and Persian patterns.

1892-1920
Some people think this period is less interesting, and call it the “post MOUZIN” period, but this is unfair. Anyhow, this period is the time art nouveau explodes and innovations close to tradition are created. The decors Jasmin in green, Jasmin in bluish grey, Capucines, Lucien, Rosa and Prunelle are some examples of this art nouveau trend.

The romantic landscapes are applied in decorative panels in small tiles (imposing landscapes with trees, influenced by the Italian Renaissance…). The ceramic for the panels is still under the influence of the Holland style from the XVII century, inspired by Frans HALS or by the Persian style (Iznik). Appearance of the art nouveau (see further) with the pointillism of amongst others FINCH, who manages, during his short stay in La Louvière (1890-93), to introduce this technique in the Delft tableware. Starting from classic leaf strings, and by simplifying them, QUENNOY surpasses the art nouveau to evolve quickly to decors that pay deference to the art deco. Styles in relief are the speciality for tableware from that period, the Strasbourg flowers are still in demand, Meissen decors (Copenhague) are applied, Emile DIFFLOTH introduces bleu and guilt decors in the Sevres style.

Finally, we have to mention that the brothers BOCH, in 1906, engaged Charles CATTEAU, an extraordinarily personality with a reputation soon to be known outside the BOCH walls, throughout his teaching, his membership of artistic circles, his collaboration with other factories.


 
1920-1950
Tableware reproduces once again various decors and series from previous periods. The catalogue from 1936 shows the diversity of the products of the Boch brothers, both in terms of reeditions of decors as in terms of creating new art deco decors.

Here are some examples from this catalogue:

- Reeditions of the first period: series 1 of Napoléon, Grand Bouquet, GG, Laurier BF, …
- Reeditions of the second period: decors Pyrus, Luxembourg, abeilles (bees), Delft, Copenhague, decor Tournay, Laurier BFK, …
- Reeditions of the third period: Lucien, Pyrus, Dugazon, Rosa, Bonaparte, Ney, …
- New art deco models: Corbeille, Melba, Damier, …

This period is mainly characterised by the production of ornamental items and art deco dinner sets created in the fantasy workshop of Charles CATTEAU. He carries of a first prize at the Paris international exhibition of modern ornamental and industrial arts 1925 with a vase in earthenware, various objects in earthenware, including an overpowering huge vase with deer’s and roes. With his team of employees he will produce thousands of vases and ornamental objects in fine faience and earthenware, developing different enamel techniques (shiny glazing, crackle finish or matt cloisonné in Longwy style), in typical stylised art deco decors inspired by geometric forms or forms from the fauna and flora, sometimes reminding Japanese influences. That production of ornamental objects also ends up with the creation of art deco decors on tableware. With the departing of Charles CATTEAU in 1950, Raymond CHEVALLIER succeeded him.

1950-2009
The faience producers are looking for a future in two different directions, on the one hand through innovation with modern and original decors, and on the other hand in concentrating on very high quality and luxury products, although with few workers.

Bibliography
- BOUCQ Annie, e.a., « Matière et beauté – De la faïence aux néocéramiques », Faculté Polytechnique de Mons, 2002.
- Collectif (sous la direction de LEFEBVRE Jacques et THOMAS Thérèse), 150 ans de création et de tradition faïencières. Boch-Keramis, La Louvière, 1841-1991, La Louvière, 1991.
- Collectif (sous la direction de ALLARD Dominique), Catteau, donation Claire De Pauw – Marcel Stal , Fondation Roi Baudouin, 2001.
- COSYNS Etienne et BRAGARD Léopold, « BOCH Frères Keramis. Décors imprimés 1844-1870 », Ed. Antiquities Cosyns S.A., 2008.
- FERY Joël, Les décors imprimés et peints sous les Mouzin, Le Roeulx 2000.
- JECK Marc, Jean-Baptiste Nothomb : une gloire nationale, Dossier Luxembourg, www.tribunedebruxelles.be (TBX n° 133, paru le 20/7/2005).
- LENGLEZ Michelle e.a., Décors imprimés de Boch-Keramis, 1844-1975, CEREDORE, La Louvière 1998.
- LIESNARD Christian, Les faïences et porcelaines belges et luxembourgeoises. Aperçu historique. Marques et cachets, Ed. Collections livres, 2001.