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Henry Van de Velde

Antwerpen 1863 - Zürich 1957


The Belgian architect and designer Henry van de Velde is a leading exponent of both "Jugendstil" and "New Objectivity". Born the son of an apothecary in Antwerp in 1863, Henry van de Velde studied painting at the Antwerp Académie des Beaux-Arts from 1881 until 1884. In 1884-85 Henry van de Velde was in Paris and Barbizon, where he worked on his painting. In 1887 Henry van de Velde joined the Neo-Impressionist group of artists in Brussels known as "Les Vingts" and showed work with them.
From 1890 Henry van de Velde became so intensively preoccupied with the British Arts and Crafts movement that he abandoned painting to design furniture and objects decoration objects. In 1895 Henry van de Velde designed four sample rooms for Samuel Bing's Paris gallery, "Maison de l'Art Nouveau".
In 1899 Henry van de Velde designed both the façade and the interior of "La Maison Moderne", the Paris showrooms of the art dealer Julius Meier-Graefe. The years leading up to 1903 saw Henry van de Velde at his most productive as a designer.
In 1897 and 1898 he founded firms in Brussels and Berlin, respectively, to make and market the furniture and objects he designed. In 1899 a Van de Velde furniture catalogue was published in both French and German. In 1900 Henry van de Velde moved to Berlin and lived in Weimar from 1902. That same year he established a crafts seminar that which became the School for the Applied Arts in 1907.
Due to the war, the school shut down in 1915 and Henry van de Velde moved to Switzerland. In 1919 the "Weimar Kunstgewerbeschule" and the "Kunsthochschule" merged as the "Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar", with Walter Gropius as its first director.
In 1907 Henry van de Velde published his book "On the New Style". The aim of Henry van de Velde's teaching at the School for the Applied Arts was, with his students "... to develop functional forms and organic elements with which the industries might attract the attention of a public that had become apathetic ... ." However, in van de Velde's work, the artistic objective always had priority over designer objects as types.
From 1926 Henry van de Velde was a professor of architecture at the university in Ghent. At the same time, he was founding director of the Institut Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs in Brussels, where he taught until 1936.
From 1947 Henry van de Velde lived in Switzerland on Lake Ägeri, south of Zurich, until his death. During his last years, Henry van de Velde wrote his memoirs, which were published posthumously in 1962 as "The Story of my Life".


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