Design Classic – Influential and important design
- Designer: Henry Van de Velde
- Material: Oak and Rush
Henry Van de Velde designed the Bloemenwerf Side Chair (1895-1898).
Bloemenwerf, Henry Van de Velde’s property outside Brussels, is the inspiration for this chair. Van de Velde planned and built the house and the interior—from the furniture to the wallpaper—resulting in a holistic design that exemplified the concept of a Gesamtkunstwerk “total work of art”. The chair demonstrates the designer’s ability to combine functional and decorative elements in his work. The chair’s ornamental qualities originate from the slightly curving back and legs, and each component exists because it is a structural need.
Van de Velde attributed John Ruskin and William Morris as influencing his transition from painting to decorative arts and architecture. Bloemenwerf, like Morris’s own Red House in Kent, was the artist’s first significant foray into these domains. The house contained chaste interiors with white walls and clean-lined “cottage” furniture that mimicked English rustic designs of the eighteenth century, such as this chair, which was inspired by other English craftsmen such as Ernest Gimson and C.F.A. Voysey. Art dealer Siegfried Bing also visited Bloemenwerf in 1895. He commissioned van de Velde to build model rooms and provide replicas of the Bloemenwerf furniture, including this chair, for Bing’s new shop in Paris.
While the chair’s form had identifiable roots in the country vernacular, its dramatically sprung curves declared van de Velde’s modern notions of a “new art,” which Bing’s gallery helped disseminate. The Societe Van de Velde, a decorating firm and factory formed by the artist in 1898, later placed it into commercial production.
Bloemenwerf Side Chair. Bloemenwerf Side Chair | Denver Art Museum. (n.d.). https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en/object/1994.641.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
Hiesinger, K. B., & Marcus, G. H. (1995). Landmarks of twentieth-century design: an illustrated handbook. Abbeville Press.
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