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Velde, Henry

Velde, Henry (or Velde, Henri, but this seems spurious) Velde, Clements van de (1863–1957). Belgian painter, designer, and architect. Influenced by William Morris, Ruskin, and the English Arts-and-Crafts movement, he built his own house, the Villa Bloemenwerf, at Uccle, near Brussels (1895), and became increasingly interested in Art Nouveau, designing four rooms for Siegfried Bing's (1838–1905) celebrated gallery, the Maison de l'Art Nouveau, Paris (1895–6), and achieved international recognition for the interiors and furniture he exhibited at Dresden in 1897. His success in Germany (e.g. interiors for the Havana Cigar Company, Berlin (1899–1901), and for the Kaiser's barber, Haby (1901), also in Berlin) encouraged him to move there, in 1900, where he served (from 1901) as art-adviser to the reigning Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst (1901–18) of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and published his Die Renaissance im moderne Kunstgewerbe (The Renaissance of Contemporary Arts and Crafts—1901, 1903). He designed exquisite interiors for the art-loving Graf Harry Kessler (1868–1937) in Weimar (1903), and the new Grand-Ducal Saxon Schools of Art and Arts and Crafts (1904–11), also in Weimar, directing the latter School from 1908. A founder-member of the Deutscher Werkbund (1907), he consolidated his position as a leading designer with the sumptuous decorations for the Folkwang Museum (now Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum), Hagen (1900–12), his finest creations in the curvilinear Art Nouveau style. He prepared proposals for the Théatre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, in 1910, but Perret's realized building was more severe. Van de Velde's use of curved forms in his buildings (e.g. the Weimar School and the rather eerie Theatre for the Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition, Cologne (1914—destroyed)), led to a fundamental disagreement within the Werkbund, Muthesius stressing industrialized building, standardization, and the machine, while van de Velde objected to the restrictions this would place on the individual designer. War in 1914 led to his resignation as an alien at Weimar. He suggested Endell, Gropius, or Obrist as his successor: in the event Gropius was appointed, and the Arts-and-Crafts ethos was destroyed after the 1914–18 war when the Grand-Ducal Schools were merged to become the Bauhaus.

Van de Velde remained active as a writer and teacher, and from 1923 designed the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands (erected 1936–54). In 1926 he built up the Institut Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs in Brussels, modelled on his earlier Schools at Weimar, and was Director there until 1935. He designed the Library (1936–9) at the University of Ghent, where he was also Professor of Architecture.

His later career was marked by his claims to have been an early protagonist of the Modern Movement, and his attitude towards the important retrospective 1952 Art Nouveau Exhibition in Zurich was equivocal, if not hostile, as it seems he feared it would draw attention to his skills in a style he had repudiated, even though from the end of C20 it is clear that his best work was carried out before 1914. He published Déblaiement d'art (Clearing (i.e. Purifying) of Art—1894), Aperçus en vue d'une synthèse d'art (Prospects for a Synthesis of Art—1895), Vom neuen Stil (Concerning the New Style—1907), and Geschichte meines Lebens (Story of my Life—1962).

Bibliography

Architectural Review, cxxxiii/793 (Mar. 1963), 165–8;
Curjel (ed.) (1955);
Delevoy et al. (1963);
Dolgner (1996);
Fohl (2000);
Hammacher (1967);
Hüter (1967, 1976);
S. Jacobs (1996);
Jervis (1984);
Kerckhove et al. (1993);
Lenning (1951);
Sembach (1989);
Loo (ed.) (2003);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Sembach (1989);
Sembach, Schulte, et al. (1992);
Jane Turner (1996);
Tschudi-Madsen (1967);
Velde (1894, 1903, 1907, 1962, 1986)

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