The design derby took place in the Boijmans museum. It is about the confrontation of Belgian and Dutch design objects from 1815 till today. The collection covered all kinds of design; from glass and ceramics, prints, furniture, fashion, even up to cars. The exhibition was ordered chronologically and all the items from each country were presented next to each other into two big lines.
Does this make sense and do you really find out more about Dutch and Belgian design by looking at it like that? This is an attempt to find out as much as possible through two chosen objects from the exhibition.
Firstly, a small round table by the Belgian designer François Carion. He built this table between 1925 and 1930, the materials he used for it are iron and pink glass. The wrought iron is one of the key symbols of his work and he used it for a lot of other designs as well.
Ravensteyn chair presented at the "Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris 1925 [x]
The second is this chair by the dutch designer Sybold van Ravesteyn, who was born in 1889 in Rotterdam. Van Ravesteyn is a nationally famous architect who designed some quite important projects in Holland, for example the central station in Rotterdam [x] (shutdown in 2007) and also various residences and furniture [x]. The presented chair was designed in 1925. It is made out of wood and painted in geometrical shapes in black and white, designed specially for mister Rademacher-Schoers bedroom with the matching nightstand for his house in Utrecht.
To find out more about the artists it is important to understand the circumstances of life and therefore their inspirations.
First of all, after the first World War progressive designers took advantage of the knowledge of material and techniques they had gained during war. That’s why for example it was also a big topic to design the first cantilever chair out of tubular steel which was used by famous designers like Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe.
Moreover some big art movements were going on in this time; from 1890 until around 1910 Art Nouveau was a big influence mainly inspired by natural forms and shapes and therefore you can find many dynamic flowing lines and mainly asymmetrical shapes. Art Nouveau was seen as a harmonization between nature and design, and also a way of life. In the same time the Arts and Crafts movement was going on, which was an big influence from Great Britain; the movement was mainly about the combination of work and art. From France came the important Art Deco movement. Art Deco was defined by stylized and two dimensional representation of floral and organic designs. The industrial production and lack of shadows and natural elements was the new sign for modernity and the overtake of Art Nouveau. The absolute climax of Art Deco was the Exposition Internationales des Arts Décoratifs et industriels modernes 1925 in Paris, which defined the movements name.
Another movement was De Stijl in Holland. Famous contributors included painter Piet Mondriaan and of course architect Gerrit Rietveld. Their work is mainly known as plastic art which is a pure abstraction in form and colour. It is about the reduction to the essentials by only using primary colors (among black and white) and the limitation to use almost only vertical and horizontal directions. The most famous example is the Red and Blue Chair by Rietveld in 1917 which can be also seen as a three dimensional painting of Mondrian.This chair was also invented for mass production which expresses the mood of time in Holland at that moment.
Also because in most middle class houses in Holland and with the higher class in Belgium it became common to use a gas stoves instead of a big oven in the kitchen, people didn’t gathered only in their kitchens anymore as nice and cozy place to stay but in their whole houses. There were other heated rooms, even central heating, as well and furniture became much more important in general.
I choose these two items mainly because of their difference, despite being designed and produced at almost the same time. This shows how many different influences the countries and artist themselves had during the time, which makes the derby more interesting, it is nice that you can find several elements of the ongoing movements in these two pieces.
Art Deco Jug • Charles Robert Ashbee (1904) [x]
Art Deco Interior • William Morris Niebelungenlied (1860) [x]
In Carions table for example I can find lots of flowing formed shapes and the motive of nature a characteristic of Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement which is coming mainly from Britain. I wanted to give another example for this movement because there are so many similarities to Carions work in C.R. Ashbees work (1863-1942) who was a British major designer for the arts and crafts movement. You can find simply the same elements and materials as Carion used in his works. In Interior Design wood was also a big thing you can see that in the Red House from William Morris, who is actually seen as the founder of this movement and his friend Philip Wood. They designed this house in England together and until now it is a well known example for the Arts and Crafts movement.
Art Nouveau Interior • Sybold van Ravesteyn room of Villa Noailles [x]
De Stijl Interieur • Theo van Doesburg Aubette (1928) [x]
Ravesteyn’s work which in this period consists of only geometrical shapes and very limited colours shows influences from the Dutch de Stijl movement, which is very much connected to Rietvelds work, who was also designing for private houses . But also artists such as Theo van Doesburg in whose Maison-Atelier de Theo van Doesburg de Meudon in Paris where he lived himself with his wife. It is quite obvious that both artists have similar inspirations and approaches in their work. In the picture you can see “Aubette” a collaboration between Hans Arp and van Doesburg for a cinema in Strasbourg which is very loyal to the de Stijl rules.
All in all from this exhibition as an example we can see the impact and influences countries get from other countries. As here seen in Holland which is more orientated on the East with Germany and the Bauhaus movement as there were also many refugees coming from there and they choose Holland as neutral country. In contrast to Belgium which was more focused on France and even Britain so therefore the south and west.
Moreover it is an interesting fact that people lived next to each other, but also very different, because there was a border between them. This has changed so much today where there is internet and it is so much easier to to cross borders to find inspiration online and not having to depend on the values and movements being part of the countries itself.