Esias Bosch in “South African studio pottery of the later twentieth century and its Anglo-Oriental epithet”, MA dissertation (Unisa, 2017), Ronnie Watt
The three pioneer South African studio potters were Esias Bosch (1923 – 2010), Hyme Rabinowitz (1920 – 2009) and Bryan Haden (1930 - 2017). Their oeuvres have consistently been described as belonging to the Anglo-Oriental tradition of which the English potter Bernard Leach (1887 - 1979), the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada (1894 – 1978) and the advocate of Japanese folk craft Sōetsu Yanagi (1889 – 1961), were the figureheads. “Anglo-Oriental” is usually associated with the slavish pursuit of making functional wares in a repetitive manner and in which the ethos of the potter can be read. In my writings I have sought to challenge that Bosch and the other pioneers as well as their successors were captives of the Anglo-Oriental tradition and I have argued that they absorbed many other influences with which they shaped their oeuvres. I have specifically promoted the influence on Bosch and Rabinowitz of the English potter Michael Cardew (1901 – 1983) who in turn found inspiration in the traditional pottery of Nigeria.
Bosch was hailed by art historians for the forms which he created. F.G.E. Nilant (1963:55) lauded Bosch’s “simplicity of […] shape” while Hans Fransen (1982:339) found appeal in Bosch’s “balance of shape and decorative elements”. According to Eunice Basson, Bosch (Bosch and De Waal 1988:37) had “a strong sensitivity for pure, simple form” and the highly acclaimed South African studio potter Thelma Marcusson made reference to his “elegance of form” (Bosch and De Waal 1988:44).
Bosch summarised the influences and the hurdles on the path towards becoming a recognised studio potter:
You know, you are young, you have done four or five years of art school, you are young, so you absorb everything and it takes you years really to know what it is all about. No one really influenced me. You come back to a different country, you work with completely different sorts of material, in a completely different environment. I mean the influence you had sort of filters out and you do your own thing (Gallery 1982:14).
Some of the earlier South African art historians recognised that Bosch’s work reflected his African roots. Murray Schoonraad (1988:22) was in no doubt about that:
Although his art can be labelled as international, it is rooted deeply in Africa. His green glazes were once described as being reminiscent of the Knysna forests; his browns can be compared to the different hues of a newly ploughed field on the highveld. All his colours are toned to look as though they are baked in the African sun. His art has the solidity of this great continent and his rich colours reflect this ageless land.
Madeleine van Biljon (1960:262) stated as early as 1960 that though Bosch’s work was “international”, she recognised the “rich, dark atmosphere” of Africa in his choice of colours. She added that when he used paler colours, they appear to have been “bleached by the fell African sun”. Bosch, according to Kirk (1979:42) assimilated and applied symbols and their meanings to fit purpose. Kirk made specific mention of “the forms and symbols, the patterns and the meanings of the Oriental, European and African traditions” (1979:42).
I promote that Bosch created an entangled narrative of himself, his time and his many influences and that an essence, as opposed to a reference, of Africa permeated his oeuvre.
Bosch, A. & De Waal, J. 1988. Esias Bosch. Cape Town: Struik Winchester
Fransen, H. 1982. Three centuries of South African art. Johannesburg: AD. Donker.
Anon. 1982. Gallery interviews – Esias Bosch. Gallery – The magazine for visual arts, Autumn:13-16
Kirk, P. 1979. Esias Bosch: A basis for appraisal. de arte 14(23):42-45
Nilant, F.G.E. 1963. Contemporary pottery in South Africa. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema
Schoonraad, M. 1988. Esias Bosch – In conclusion. National Ceramics Quarterly 4, June:16-19, 22
Van Biljon, M.L. 1960. Esias Bosch die pottebakker. Lantern 9(3), January - March:262-269
Essay by Ronnie Watt: http://www.artatworktoday.com/the-artists/esias-bosch/
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