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Amsterdam School interior of collector Richard Hopman. Photo Petra and Eric Hesmerg

Amsterdam School interior of collector Richard Hopman. Photo Petra and Eric Hesmerg

Design for the Interior 1910 – 1930

More than a year ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video on Twitter. The curator of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Ingeborg de Roode, asked viewers to submit photos of their Amsterdam School furniture. I have an Amsterdam School mirror! I realised, and sent her my pictures. I got a reply back thanking me for my contribution. My mirror was not selected for the exhibition, but all contributions, De Roode assured, were considered valuable in the investigation.

Let me explain the Amsterdam School movement. According to the leaflet handed out during the exhibition The Amsterdam School was an exuberant style of architecture and design that was unique to The Netherlands. The movement emerged after the New Art and Art Nouveau schools, and is regarded as the highly original Dutch correlative to the lively international Art Deco movement.

I don’t want to argue with art historians and curators, but… to me the Amsterdam School seems more related to Art Nouveau than to Art Deco. Or at least equally related. Particularly in architectural ornamentation, stained glass and graphic design, the similarities between Art Nouveau and Amsterdam School are striking sometimes. So instead of saying the Amsterdam School came after Art Nouveau and was the Dutch equivalent of Art Deco, I would like to nuance that the Amsterdam School had its roots in Art Nouveau and at the same time showed similarities to Art Deco.

But please beware that the Amsterdam School was not a weak adaptation of either the Art Nouveau or the Art Deco movement, nor an undefined style between those two very distinct styles. The Amsterdam School was a very powerful architecture and design movement. And in a way, this places The Netherlands in a unique position; it is the only country in the world that had a full-blown design movement between Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Having said all that, I think it’s justifiable to write a post about the Amsterdam School exhibition on my blog About Art Nouveau.


Scheepvaarthuis Amsterdam; photo by Way K.

In 1912, Amsterdam architects Joan van der Mey, Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer designed an office building for six shipping companies. Shortly after the inauguration of this Scheepvaarthuis in 1916 (exactly 100 years ago this year) fellow architect Jan Gratama coined the term Amsterdam School when he described the shippinghouse.

At  the moment, the Scheepvaarthuis houses the Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam. So you could book a room or get married there while enjoying its luscious architecture. But the hotel organises guided tours too. You can get more information about that here. In the mean time, I’ve gathered some photo’s of the Scheepvaarthuis for you on here.

Another well-known Amsterdam School building is the Tuschinski Theatre. I have collected some more pictures for you here.


Interior Tuschinski theatre by Bernardo Contopoulos

Interior Tuschinski theatre by Bernardo Contopoulos

Stylistic Features of The Amsterdam School

According to the exhibition leaflet, the movement’s four key traits are:

  • Luxuriant Colours (Intense and contrasting colours, often set off against black. Secondary colours purple, orange and green were often used. Furniture upholstered with rich velvet fabrics)
  • Expressive Forms (Expressive and often unusual forms: convex, pointed and sometimes teardrop-shaped)
  • Distinctive Details (Ridges, serrations, meandering lines and sculpted details frequently inspired by organic forms)
  • Undulating or Geometric Design (There were two variants: one is expressive with exuberant forms, bright contrasting colours and strong, sculptural lines. The other is more geometric)

For those who know a little about Art Nouveau, this all sounds familiar, right?

The exhibition reveals how the colourful, expressive style influenced our interiors. It includes furniture, clocks, textiles, posters, book covers, lamps and jewellery. I won’t go into detail as I think the pictures speak for themselves. Please enjoy the pictures, or better yet, go visit the exhibition.

There’s one aspect of the exhibition I’d like to highlight though: the workshop. In one of the galleries you can actually make your own Amsterdam School clock from pre-cut cardboard and decorate it. If you buy a clock movement from the museum shop, you’ll have a self-made working Amsterdam School timepiece!

clock making workshop at stedelijk museum amsterdam Result clock making workshop at stedelijk museum amsterdam

The exhibition was shrouded in darkness, just the way I like my exhibitions. Disastrous for my photo’s though, so please forgive me to poor quality of my pictures. If you buy the catalogue, you’ll be able to enjoy high quality pictures of all exhibited objects and só much more!

Do you see how these leaded stained-glass windows were inspired by the works of Ernst Haeckel? In an earlier post I wrote about how Ernst Haeckel inspired many Art Nouveau artists around the world.

And do you agree with me that these graphic designs appear much more related to Art Nouveau than to Art Deco? Please let me have your thoughts in the comments below.

Amsterdamse School leaded stained glass lamps

This shows how dark it was!

The exhibition catalogue is a comprehensive survey of a 10 year investigation by curator Ingeborg de Roode, art historian Marjan Groot and many, many interns. It’s already available in bookstores, in Dutch as well as in English. 304 pages in full colour. All new photo’s.

Living in the Amsterdam School book 2016

Also, there’s a brochure available about 100 years Amsterdam School, including an overview and a map of Amsterdam with highlights to visit. Download it here.

Exhibition Living in the Amsterdam School
9 April – 28 August 2016
Stedelijk Musuem Amsterdam

Continue Reading:
100 Years of The Amsterdam School
Amrath Hotel Amsterdam – Het Scheepvaarthuis
Amsterdam School – English wikipage
Amsterdamse School – Dutch wikipage
Apollo Magazine: Schip shape – the infectiously bizarre style of the Amsterdam School
Blog about the preparations for the exhibition and catalogue
Expressionist architecture
J. M. van der Mey en het Scheepvaarthuis
Museum Het Schip
Het Parool – 94 Nieuwe Tekeningen Amsterdamse School ontdekt
Het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Indonesië en De Amsterdamse School
Press-release Het Scheepvaarthuis – Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie
Tuschinski – Droom, Legende en Werkelijkheid
Villa ‘t Reigersnest, Oostvoorne
Wendingen, Platform voor de Amsterdamse School
Publicatie bij de tentoonstelling Wonen in de Amsterdamse School.