Dutch Design Heritage
René Smeets (1905-1976), artist, ceramist, academy director.
René Smeets was born in Ottersum, a town near Gennep in Limburg, where his father was the head of the local school. He attended secondary school in Rolduc, and after obtaining his drawing certificate and having done his military service, he studied at the Rijksacademie from 1926 to 1929. Smeets got in touch with the artist Mathieu Wiegman, for whom he made murals and together they also travelled through the south of France. He also worked with Charles Eyck and made several stained glass windows. He established himself as an independent painter/stained glass artist in 1935 and he assisted his brother in his woodworking shop. During the Second World War, he got involved with the company Russel Tiglia where, in addition to pans and tiles, religious statues and decorative pottery was made as well. Smeets joined the Tegelse Volkskunst and he taught a group of uneducated boys drawing, aesthetics and art history.
Smeets was the first director of the Eindhoven Academy of Industrial Design and for that he received the BKI prize in 1964. At the academy he emphasised the importance of keeping in touch with practical aspects. In addition, he was involved in the COSA foundation as a chairman of the advisory committee from 1948 to 1972, and as an author in the magazine Scheppend Ambacht (‘Creative Craftsmanship’). He wrote Scheppend Ambacht Limburg in 1955. Smeets left the academy in 1970 and after his retirement he wrote the book Ornament, symbool en teken (‘Ornament, symbol and sign’).
The Louis Kalff Instituut is the Dutch heritage centre for industrial design, located in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.