Het Nieuwe Instituut has acquired a design by Theo van Doesburg for the tiled floor in the De Vonk Holiday Home. Designed by J.J.P. Oud in 1917, the building was one of the first collaborations between members of De Stijl, who strove shortly after the First World War to create a new kind of living environment in which architecture and colour would merge to form a total work of art.
The art group De Stijl (The Style) was founded by Van Doesburg in 1917. Within the group’s philosophy, a new task was assigned to art, painting and architecture ‘as a guide that prepares humanity for harmony and balance, for a “new life”’. H.L.C. Jaffé. De Stijl 1917-1931. Libris, 1988. In this way art would contribute to a new and better world.
De Vonk (The Spark), a fine example of a gesamtkunstwerk in its integration of architecture and painting according to the ideals of De Stijl, was the result of a collaboration between Van Doesburg and Oud. The two men would fall out a few years later, in 1921, because of their differing opinions about the role of colour in architecture: Oud came to believe that colour should not be dominant, and Van Doesburg refused to submit to the architect’s demands, leading to Oud’s departure from De Stijl.
In 1917, Emilie Knappert, the founder of Vereeniging Buitenbedrijf in Leiden, asked her good friend, the architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage, to design a holiday home where working-class girls could spend their holidays and weekends in the healthy country air. Berlage was too busy and gave the commission to J.J.P. Oud, who asked Theo van Doesburg to take care of certain decorative elements of the design, such as mosaics and the colour scheme for the doors, the exterior and the floor. Oud also asked the artist Harm Kamerlingh Onnes to design stained-glass windows for the building.
The idea behind this division of labour was to counter the so-called polarity of three-dimensional architecture and two-dimensional painting. The aim of the collaboration was to achieve a harmonious connection between these opposites, in which the architect and artist strove for pure means and forms within their own field. In De Vonk, this resulted in a harmonious balance between Oud’s closed symmetrical architecture and Van Doesburg’s open, asymmetrical colour compositions. Monumentenregister https://monumentenregister.cultureelerfgoed.nl/monumenten/509685
However, in a letter dated 19 August 1918, Van Doesburg complained to Oud that his design was spoiled by the stained-glass windows by Kamerlingh Onnes. He believed that the modernist compositions blocked the daylight that the floors needed to look their best. Nevertheless, Van Doesburg’s design immediately resulted in a new commission: the clergyman Bart de Ligt was so impressed by the mosaic that he asked Van Doesburg to design the interiors of six rooms and a hallway for a house in Lage Vuursche. Three of the colour designs for this job have been preserved and are in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Part of the National Collection
The Design for the tiled floor for the entrance and hall of the De Vonk Holiday Home in Noordwijkerhout has been loaned for decades by the Cultural Heritage Agency to Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden. Now, the drawing has been entrusted to the care of Het Nieuwe Instituut. The work is part of the architectural aspect of Van Doesburg’s estate, which his heirs decreed should be in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut (at that time the Netherlands Architecture Institute).
The drawing is a colour design for the floor of the entrance, the hall and the landing on the first floor. The design for De Vonk complements a number of other floor designs by Van Doesburg in the National Collection, such as those for the bathroom and kitchen of his own house and studio in Meudon, the cinema/dance hall in the Aubette building in Strasbourg, and his interior for University Hall in Amsterdam by Cornelis van Eesteren.
In addition to the Van Doesburg archive, Het Nieuwe Instituut also manages the archive of J.J.P. Oud, which contains a design for the entrance to De Vonk. The use of felt-tip pen in the drawing suggests that it is a post-war work, but further research is needed to confirm this. The Van Doesburg catalogue raisonné, edited by Els Hoek, contains a third design of the entrance that differs from the design in the newly acquired drawing (DOESAB5091), but unfortunately only a black-and-white photograph of this design is known.
Earlier this year, Het Nieuwe Instituut acquired a model of the interior of the Aubette café and restaurant (1926) from the estate of Van Doesburg.
Only Surviving Model by Theo van Doesburg Acquired for the National Collection
Het Nieuwe Instituut has acquired a model of an interior by Theo van Doesburg for the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. It is a design for one of the most important architectural projects of De Stijl: the cinema-cum-dance hall in the Aubette building in Strasbourg (1928). It is also the only model by Van Doesburg to survive. The acquisition has been made possible by contributions from the Mondriaan Fund, the Vereniging Rembrandt and Galerie Gmurzynska.
Waiting for Miró. The creation of a ceramic mural for J.J.P. Oud’s Bio Herstellingsoord
The joint archive of J.J.P. Oud (1890-1963) and his son Hendrik Emil (Hans) Oud (1919-1996) contains sketches for a ceramic mural on the façade of the Bio Herstellingsoord in Arnhem. Oud’s correspondence shows that he enlisted the Spanish Surrealist painter Joan Miró (1893-1983) to design the mural. But are the colourful sketches in the archive by Miró or by Oud? Or are they by the Dutch painter Karel Appel (1921-2006), who took over the assignment from Miró around 1960?