May 15, 2012

Johan Jacobs sketchbooks

My favorite part of the Vlisco exhibition 'Six Yards Guaranteed Dutch Design' was the table with the very old, beautiful pieces of Batik (see "Making notes") and Johan Jacobs sketch- and inspiration-books. His sketchbooks are full of fine detailed drawings. Little paintings of fabrics (mostly batiks), Persian carpets, Roman vases and other beautiful things. Small artworks made with craftsmanship and quality.

When Johan Jacobs was chief of the Vlisco drawing room he took his colleagues from the drawing department to different places for inspiration. A daytrip to the Volkenkundig Museum in Leiden or excursion in nature. All collected ideas were put in so called 'idea books' and were used for making new designs.*

Michel Duco Crops designs were mostly based on plants and flowers, Jacobs designs also involved wildlife. In hundreds of sketches Jacobs drew animals from his surroundings like chicken, roosters, turkeys, peacocks and rabbits. His love for animals in and around his house gave him inspiration for new motifs.*
Not only animals, especially birds, gave him inspiration, also foreign people with their exotic customs and costumes.
Johan Jacobs loved museums, together with nature it formed an unlimited supply for new works. He wasn't fond of modern art, he was more interested in ethnology and history.
For example in the Colonial Institute in Amsterdam (now Tropenmuseum) he saw jewelry with feathers, this gave him the idea to make a pattern of feathers for Vlisco.*

An inspiring artist who loved nature, especially birds (me too), ethnology (yes!) and history (check!). And who made beautiful designs with these inspirations. Great to get a closer look of the process towards classic Vlisco designs!

* Information from 'Johan Jacobs: Tekenaar pur sang' by Ger Jacobs in 'Johan Jacobs (1881 - 1955)'


  1. Beautifully presented sketchbooks. It is always great to see original sketchbooks, but when they are this well presented you know the designer is a good one, if not a great one even.

  2. I totally agree. Very inspiring to see. Nowadays we make digital photos instead, which is a pity if you see these sketchbooks.