When visiting The Hague’s Gemeente Museum, Art Nouveau lovers are treated to a very special room called de Dijsselhofkamer, the Dijsselhof room. The interior was designed by decorative artist Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof (1866-1924) for Dr. Willem van Hoorn, a dermatologist in Amsterdam. The room was installed in Van Hoorn’s house in 1900, but as he passed away in 1901, he didn’t get to enjoy it very long. The entire room was then moved to the house of Dr. P. Verhagen, a fellow dermatologist, where it remained until his death in 1930. Verhangen’s widow donated the interior to the Gemeente Museum, where it is still one of the highlights today.
The reason why I would like to pay some special attention to this room is because it is showing Art Nouveau applied to a technique which I believe is rather distinctive for The Netherlands: Batik. A Batik is a cloth that is decorated using a traditional wax-resist dyeing technique. This technique originates from Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies.
We all know about the Dutch and their long history in Indonesia. But what very little people know is that the Dutch women in Indonesia were the first to industrialize Batik production. Dutch women loved batik fabrics, they had access to technical know-how and they had access to money. Being bored with their needlepoint and cross stitch work, they learned to produce batik and designed prints reminiscent of ‘home’. Being able to produce their ‘Batik Belanda’ on a larger scale now, they exported their fabrics to The Netherlands. In 1890, the technique was picked up by decorative artist Carel Lion Cachet, in 1894 by Dijsselhof and in 1896 by Thorn Prikker. After 1900, Chris Lebeau became the most prominent Batik artist. And also in Belgium artists were getting interested in the Batik technique. Henry van de Velde was undoubtedly the first artist who was inspired by the Batiks he saw in the Netherlands. Though he probably made little or no Batiks himself, he urged his Dutch friend Thorn Prikker to manufacture Batik fabrics. Van de Velde taught the technique at the Bauhaus in Weimar, and there were also courses at other European schools for applied arts. The Dutch introduced Batik to the rest of the world at the 1900 Exhibition Universelle in Paris, and suddenly Batik was en vogue!
In England, the Arts and Crafts movement of William Morris (1834-1896) and Walter Crane (1845–1915) arose as a rebellion against cheap and ugly mass-produced items that were a result of the industrial revolution. The movement developed first and most fully in the British Isles, as the industrial revolution started there, but it later also spread to the rest of Europe and North America. According to William Morris, the world of simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship was destroyed by industrialization and mechanization, and he and his fellow Arts and Crafts members aimed to restore that world again.
As a supporter of the ideas of William Morris and Walter Crane (1845–1915) Dijsselhof dedicated himself to honest craftsmanship. He designed the entire interior in one style, making it real Gesamtkunstwerk. The room has maple wood paneling, with carvings and matching Batik wall coverings, all by Dijsselhof himself. The large Batik panels depict flowers and animals, including flamingos, pelicans, deer and fish. Dijsselhof asked needle artist Maria Wilhelmina Verena (Willy) Keuchenius, who was born in Modjokerto, to cover-up imperfections with embroidery. The collaboration must have felt very rewarding as they got married in 1898.
Below are some more pictures from the Dijsselhof room. My apologies for the poor quality. The room was dark, I guess to prevent the Batiks from fading away, and flash was of course not allowed. I hope you can still appreciate these rare and exquisite Batiks designs.
Blog: de reis naar Batik
Gemeente Museum Den Haag
History Of Batik In Holland
Monumentenzorg Den Haag
Wie is wie in Overijssel
Wikipage Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof
Wikipage Batik (Dutch)
Wikipage Batik (English)