Highly textured, smoky blue studio-pottery vase by the German sculptor, draftsman, and painter Hermann Focke.

HERMANN FOCKE (1924–2020) was primarily known for his sculptural works in bronze and manipulated paper, as well as for his geometric abstract watercolor paintings. He was born in the small town of Metelen, roughly 10 km from the Dutch border in northwest Germany, and grew up in humble circumstances as one of nine siblings. During WWII, at the age of 14, he went to work in a weaving mill, and four years later, at 18, was drafted into the Wehrmacht. He was taken prisoner by the Russians shortly after and was finally released in 1947. Focke soon began his artistic career as an apprentice in the Erkelenz studio of sculptor Peter Haak (1912–1983) outside of Dusseldorf. He then formally studied at the Applied Arts Academy in Muenster from 1950 to 1953 under sculptor Kurt Schwippert (1903–1983) and artist and pedagogue Hugo Kuekelhaus (1900–1984). Continuing his education at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf, he graduated as a master pupil of painter and sculptor Ewald Mataré (1887–1965) in 1959. From then on he worked as a freelance artist—mainly in the fields of plastic arts, but also painting and calligraphy—in Düsseldorf. He lived for many years in the Künstlerhaus on Sittarder Straße before moving to the one in the Golzheim district in 1979.

Focke initially followed in Mataré’s stylistic and thematic footsteps with small animal sculptures and numerous commissions for churches in the Rhineland and Westphalia in the 1960s. His work at this time incorporated abstracted figures into ornamental designs. These commissions promised economic success and recognition, but in Focke’s opinion, they did not lead him forward artistically. He turned to abstract works on paper following Mataré’s 1965 death, making a radical break with conventional art, and not creating any further sculptural works for two decades. In his search for new forms of expression, Focke experimented with different materials and techniques, working on monotypes with colors and painting over photographs that had been partially dissolved in chemical solutions. In the 1970s, he went on extensive study trips to Japan, Korea, Malta, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, also staying in Paris several times for research purposes.

Focke subsequently returned to representational imagery with pen drawings and watercolors. The new work was created spontaneously and surprised with its rich colors: organic and amorphous, head and body fragments, surrealistically alienated and sometimes erotically charged. In 1986 he finally revisited three-dimensional form and began making abstract objects folding paper, inspired by the Japanese art of origami. Some of these were turned into larger outdoor sculptures formed with sheets of zinc and copper. Focke attended a calligraphy workshop at Hangzhou University in China in 1997, and he integrated ink-brush drawings into much of his later work. In December 2017 he was honored with the Artists’ Art Prize at the Great Art Exhibition in NRW Düsseldorf and an accordant exhibition, from February to March, at the city’s Museum Kunstpalast.



Design Period/Year – 1960s


Production Period/Year – 1960s


Styles/Movements – MID-CENTURY MODERN

Materials – CERAMIC


Condition – Excellent vintage condition. Minor traces of wear consistent with age and use.

Dimensions – 6 ¼" DIAM. × 5 ½" H

Quantity Available – 1