Jean Derval first received an artistic education as a graphic designer and poster designer at the School of Applied Arts on rue Dupetit-Thouars in Paris. His vocation for ceramics came to him fortuitously when he created stoneware services for the Christofle goldsmith house.
In 1945, during his visit to Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, he learned the trade of ceramist in the Maubrou-Pigaglio workshop. In this workshop, with Camille Gendras, turner at Pigaglio, he learned about turning and other ceramic techniques. He then stayed in La Borne, where he met Paul Beyer.
In 1947, Jean Derval joined his comrades Robert Picault and Roger Capron in Vallauris where they had created a pottery workshop the previous year. The elegant world of amateurs and artists met at that time on the Côte d’Azur around Picasso. Jean Derval entered the famous Madoura workshop in 1949, where he rubbed shoulders with the Andalusian master for two years.
In 1951, he founded his own establishment, Le Portail. Instead of creating a real factory, he chose the difficult path of “unique pieces”.
Derval offers a repertoire of domestic pottery, essentially of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic inspiration, reinterpreted from the lessons of cubism and abstraction. His Christian faith also led him to deal with religious subjects such as representations of the Virgin and saints. Finally, its Mediterranean roots leave an important place to the mythology of ancient Greece.
The end of the 1960s was marked by an evolution in taste towards stoneware with austere hues, at the expense of the coloured earthenware favoured by Jean Derval. He then turned to architectural ceramics with a vision of a sculptor more than a potter.