Henry Van de Velde (1863-1957)

Belgian designer and architect

Van de Velde is the most international artist of the Art Nouveau movement and one of the major. Born in Antwerpen, he started as a painter influenced by divisionnism. He built his first house for himself in Brussels ("Bloemenwerf"). He designed every detail : when I visited it in the early 1990ies, I could still see the heater in an original Van de Velde Art Nouveau style. As he never studied architecture and he was paying for his house, he could feel free from the old styles more than other architects. He gain a large succes in Berlin from 1900 for he interior designs. And then he was one of the founders of the decorative arts shool of Weimar in 1902. This school was later called the "Bauhaus" when it was directed by Gropius. In 1910-11, he tried to establish in Paris with no success. He left Weimar in 1917 for Swidzerland during 2 years and then 6 years in Holland but without any architectural success. In the 1920ies his architecture turn to functionalism and had a lot of influence on other mosern architects. He got an other period of success from 1926 when he returned to Brussels. He spent his last ten years in Switzerland, far from the spotlights.

His Art Nouveau designs, always bent with dynamic curves, are some of the most typical of the period. They often turn to abstraction like in the placard for the Tropon firm or the book cover for "Ecce Homo" by Nietzche.

His Art Nouveau furniture often opposed these dynamic lines with massive shapes so as his buildings. He was reproached to build his buildings like furniture. Nevertheless, Henry Van de Velde is one of the Art Nouveau architects who makes most the shapes give an emotion.

Main buildings



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