Antwerp was too small for Henry van de Velde (Antwerp)

Antwerp was too small for Henry van de Velde (Antwerp)

Henry van de Velde painted at Gasthof de Keyes in Wechildersande in 1889. © RVDV

Normative work on the genius pharmacist’s son from Falcon Plain


Henri van de Velde (1863-1957) in Germany is considered a major figure in modern art, and in his home city of Antwerp, he is still little recognized. Only now has the first overview of his paintings and drawings published, which laid the foundation of his career. The Pharmacist’s son from Falcon Plain would become especially famous for his architecture and design.

Frank Hermann

The city’s thick pottery is a private initiative of Antwerp art dealer Ronnie van de Velde, who has already published the catalog of grounds for Henri de Brackler and Jules Schmalzeug. The book focuses on the years 1883, when Van de Velde left the Antwerp Academy, and 1893, when he married and began to focus on design and architecture. This transformation made him move abroad where he could develop his inspiring ideas, in which aesthetics and social engagement came together. In Weimar he founded the predecessor of the Bauhaus School of Art, in the Netherlands he put his shoulders on the wheel of the famous Kröller-Müller Museum.

This story is known through many exhibitions and books. Less well known are the first ten years of his career, when van de Velde quickly broke free from the mediocrity he had lived in at the Antwerp Academy and the mainstream cultural life. Under the influence of Millet, Manet, Seurat, and Van Gogh, he developed into an original painter.

Woman by the Window, a pointillism masterpiece from 1889, purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1944. © KMSKA

“His artworks have scattered in many European museums, but for the rest, not many paintings and drawings remain, barely visible,” says Ronny van de Velde, who has been searching for it for forty years. In the seventies, he already met his son, Thyl Van de Velde, with whom he managed to get many colorful drawings. He bought an important portrait from the relatives of Henry van de Velde’s sister. Furthermore, he was patiently waiting for another important piece to appear. In Germany he recently found a natural ‘farmer sharpening his sickle’ from 1885, and in America he found a ‘Hooiendeboer’ influenced by Van Gogh from 1891.

“Haying Farmer” from 1981, brought to Belgium by Ronny van de Velde from America. © RVDV

In the end, sixty paintings and two hundred drawings and pastels were recovered and documented in the Bossonnet Catalog. The Ensor Specialist Book was written by Xavier Tricot. “We got our passions together,” says Ronnie van de Velde. “For more than ten years, Xavier kept records of discovered or identified works. A long-standing task and a lot of patience. I hardly know any real collectors of Henry van de Velde’s paintings. His family has traveled throughout Germany, Holland and the United States. There is a foundation, but he does not run a collection” .

In his gallery at 759 Zeedijk in Knokke, Ronny Van de Velde displays a selection of works from the writers from August 1 to September 26. There are still dark realistic works influenced by his education at the Antwerp Academy, but also the colorful peasant scenes he went on to do in Wechelderzande and Kalmthout. Its path ends with dune views of Blankenberge and Knokkei, sometimes visible with only a few lines.

Finding it difficult to move beyond Seurat’s pointillism and Van Gogh’s wealth of color and realizing that art could play an important role in society, Henri van de Velde set his artistic career on a different path after 1893. He designed book covers, utensils, furniture, collections, and buildings. International success! “For a small spoonful, German collectors offer thousands of euros. It is remarkable that his exquisite and unique drawings are not yet equally appreciated,” says Ronnie van de Velde.

On August 25, he will present the Index Catalog at the Hendrik Heritage Library of Conscience. This will be accompanied by an exhibition of famous book covers designed by Henry van de Velde for his friend Max Elskamp, ​​luxury editions by Friedrich Nietzsche and Van Nu en Straks magazine.

Trilingual bibliography cover.

Trilingual bibliography cover. © RVDV

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