goto Adelta Homepage

Henry van de Velde, 1905
Henry van de Velde, 1905

Henry van de Velde at his studio, 1907
Van de Velde at his studio, 1907

Henry van de Velde - Biography and Facts

Van de Velde, Henry - Belgian architect and teacher who ranks with his compatriot Victor Horta as an originator of the Art Nouveau style, characterized by long sinuous lines derived from naturalistic forms.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica online)

Van de Velde biography data

1863 3 April: Henry van de Velde born in Antwerp
1880 Studied painting
1892 Switched to the applied and decorative arts
1895 Exhibition in Paris, Title: Art Nouveau
1897 Exhibition in Dresden
1901 Van de Velde moved to Berlin
1902 Invited to Weimar, founded arts and crafts seminar
1907 Member of the Deutscher Werkbund
1908 Moved to House Lofty Poplars, Weimar
1913 Designed theatre for the 1914 Cologne Werkbund Exhibition
1915 Resigned as director of the School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar
1918 Van de Velde moved to Switzerland
1926 Returned to Brussels
1935 Art Adviser to the Belgian cabinet
1957 15 October: Henry van de Velde died in Zurich

Detailed biography of Henry van de Velde

3 April: Henry van de Velde, the son of an Antwerp chemist, was born as the 7th of 8 children.

Studied painting in Antwerp.

Continued to study painting in Paris.

Worked for the weekly periodical ‘L’Art Moderne’.

Van de Velde abandoned painting, preferring to work for the linkage of the aesthetic with the practical and utilitarian. He created La Veillée des anges/Angels Wake (tapestry 1892-93, now in the Museum Bellerive in Zurich).

Engelswache (Angel's wake), 1892
Engelswache (Angel's wake), 1892

Taught at Antwerp Art Academy.

Married Maria Sèthe.

Taught at Université Nouvelle in Brussels. 1st course: Industrial Arts and Ornament.

Designed his own house, Bloemenwerf, in Uccle, Brussels.

Exhibition mounted by Siegfried Bing in Paris, entitled Art Nouveau. (Bing, proprietor of a Paris gallery, coined the term ‘Art Nouvean’).

Bloemenwerf House finished.

Birth of van de Velde’s eldest daughter, Nele.

Art and crafts exhibition in Dresden. Van de Velde’s exhibits – the same he had shown in Paris at Bing’s Art Nouvean exhibition – Breakthrough for van de Velde in Germany.

Founded the workshop ‘Société van de Velde’, based at Ixerres, Brussels, where the furniture he was commissioned to design was to be built. Partners in the firm included the painter Curt Herrmann and the industrialist Eberhard von Bodenhausen, who commissioned van de Velde to decorate his Berlin flat.

Van de Velde accepted a commission to decorate the Berlin flat of Harry, Count Kessler (diplomat and writer) in Köthener Str.

Established ‘Van de Velde GmbH’ in Berlin. The large number of commissions he received from Germany encouraged van de Velde to found this, his second firm. In addition, pieces of furniture were to be made in limited editions.

Posters, packaging, advertising for Tropon, makers of foodstuffs in Cologne-Mühlheim. The first commission that gave him a chance to practise his skills as an artist.

Tropon Poster, 1898
Tropon Poster, 1898

Writing for the Belgian periodical Revue Générale was followed by numerous published writings and several books. Most of these are theoretical treatises, many dealing with art education.

Commissioned to design an art salerooms in Paris, ‘Maison Moderne’ for the art historian Julius Meier-Graefe, who, with Siegfried Bing, was his most important early mentor and patron.

First furniture catalogue of the van de Velde workshop printed.

Karl Ernst Osthaus (a banker from Hagen, Westphalia) visited Bloemenwerf. He commissioned van de Velde to design the interior of the Folkwang Museum in Hagen. The Osthaus family lived above the Museum.

The van de Velde family moved to Berlin.

Decorated Director Stern’s flat.

Van de Velde’s invitation to Weimar as art adviser for industrial design and crafts to the Grand Duke was arranged by Harry, Count Kessler.
Van de Velde moved to Weimar.

Van de Velde founded the crafts seminar in Weimar - precursor of the School of Arts and Crafts - It in turn was the predecessor of the Bauhaus.
It served as a studio where ‘craftsmen and industrialists could look at new models and assimilate them and improve their own products’ (under van de Velde’s supervision).

His book, ‘Kunstgewerbliche Laienpredigten’ [Arts and Crafts Sermons by a Lay Preacher] published in Leipzig.

Harry, Count Kessler museum director in Weimar.

Louise Dumont, a famous early 20th century tragic actress, planned the building of a theatre in Weimar with van de Velde. Funding was available. The Grand Duke was merely supposed to place a building site at the disposal of the planners. The director of the Weimar Court Theatre, however, used his influence at court to block the project.

Van de Velde appointed professor.

Villa Esche built in Chemnitz.

Villa Hohenhof planned and built for Karl Ernst Osthaus in Hagen (Osthaus: ‘... complete planning signed and sealed on my desk.’).

After differences with the Grand Duke, Kessler resigned from his post. Van de Velde wanted to follow him - Kessler persuaded him to stay on. Van de Velde, however, limited his activities henceforth to building and then heading the School of Arts and Crafts.

The Deutscher Werkbund founded. Van de Velde felt strong ties to the association. Became a member of the board of directors.

Portait Henry van de Velde by E.L. Kirchner
Portait Harry Count Kessler by Edvard Munch

Publication of van de Velde’s Book: ‘Vom neuen Stil: Der ‚Laienpredigten’ zweiter Teil’ [On the New Style: The Lay Preacher, Part II] (Insel-Verlag). In it, he outlined his programme as follows:
‘Recognising the meaning, the form, the purpose of all things in the materialist modern world with the same truthfulness with which the Greeks, among so many other things, recognised the meaning, form and purpose of the column. It is not easy to find the precise meaning and the precise form for the simplest of things nowadays.
We shall still need a great deal of time to recognise the precise form for a table, a chair, a house’

Van de Velde moved into Haus Hohe Pappeln (Lofty Poplars House), the house he designed for himself outside Weimar.

Publication of van de Velde’s ‘Amo’ (Insel-Verlag) – quotation:
‘You shall understand this form and construction of all objects only in the sense of their most stringent logic and justification for being.
You shall accommodate and subordinate these forms and constructions to the essential use of the material which you employ.
And, should the desire animate you to embellish these forms and constructions, only yield to this desire in so far as you can respect the rights and the essential appearance of these forms and constructions and retain them!’

Van de Velde with family in front of house 'Hohe Pappeln'
Van de Velde with family in front of house 'Hohe Pappeln'

The Deutscher Werkbund commissioned van de Velde to build a theatre for the 1914 Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne. The commission is controversial because of van de Velde’s foreign nationality. Van de Velde: ‘Without the support of the Mayor of Cologne, Dr. Konrad Adenauer ... I should never have managed to build the Werkbund Theatre.’

The theatre opened in July. In September, however, the outbreak of the Great War closed its doors for ever.

Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne. Ten theses advanced by Hermann Muthesius on the work of the Werkbund – ten antitheses advanced by van de Velde and others.
‘2. Only through typing, which should be understood as the result of healthy concentration, can a generally acceptable, sure sense of taste be again introduced.’
Van de Velde:
‘1. As long as there are still artists in the Werkbund and as long as they can still exert an influence on its fate, they will protest against all proposals for a canon or typing. The artist is quintessentially an ardent individualist, a free, spontaneous creator ...’

In July van de Velde handed in his letter of resignation to the Grand Duke in Weimar. Conservative forces at the Court were increasingly preventing realisation of his ideas.

Van de Velde resigned as head of the School of Arts and Crafts, recommending Walter Gropius as his successor.
The School of Arts and Crafts became the core of the Bauhaus (its name from 1919).

Amidst the upheavals of war van de Velde left Germany for Switzerland.

Contact with the Dutch collectors and patrons of the arts, Hélène Kröller-Müller and her husband, Anton Kröller.

Portrait of Henry van de Velde by E.L. Kirchner
Portrait of Henry van de Velde by E.L. Kirchner

House de Tent in Wassenaar.

The economic crisis forced Kröller to dismiss van de Velde.

Return to Brussels. Appointed director of the Institut Supérieur des Arts décoratifs (ISAD).

The Dutch government declared itself willing to finance the building of the Kröller-Müller Museum in De Hoge Veluwe - however, only a much simplified design.

Van de Velde became an art adviser to the Belgian cabinet.

Inauguration of the first rooms of the Kröller-Müller Museum.

Van de Velde moved to Switzerland to retire at Oberägeri, where he wrote his autobiography, ‘Die Geschichte meines Lebens’ [The Story of My Life] (Piper, Munich 1962).

On 15 October Henry van de Velde died in Zurich.