In my presentations, I always like to stress the coherence between different aspects of our society that led to the climax at the turn of the 19th century we call Art Nouveau. I always try to drag as many elements into the equation as possible, to show that Art Nouveau didn’t come falling from the sky. That it wasn’t the invention of just one artist. And that it didn’t arise overnight. No, Art Nouveau was a culmination of seemingly insignificant changes in society. It was the inevitable result of continuous changes, technical inventions and a sweeping revision of existing conventions.
And thát is exactly how the makers of the new exhibition at Museum Prinsenhof in Delft approached their presentation. You can imagine how excited I am about this exhibition! Let me tell you more…
The new exhibition shows how the flourishing of Delft art between 1880 and 1940 resulted from a unique synergy among three important parties in the city: the Applied Arts, Industry and Education. Each of these three parties defines a theme and the combination of the three forms the basic concept of the exhibition. additionally, I would like to mention the fact that each visitor gets a free book (in Dutch or English) including all texts corresponding with the objects in the exhibition! This is wonderful as I could read the room texts as well as the information about the artists and all objects much more attentively once I had returned to the peace and quiet of my own home.
Education: The Polytechnic School as inspiration for art and industry
The Dutch economy received an enormous impulse from the increase in trade and industrialisation in the nineteenth century. A rail system was created, canals and roads were expanded and above all, buildings were constructed (stations, office premises, factories etc.). This activity generated a pressing need for skilled technicians and architects. In 1842, King William II opened the Royal Academy in Delft which was replaced by the Polytechnic School in 1863. Students studied civil engineering there, but could also get a teaching degree in drawing or modelling. Generations of students, including important artists like Jan Toorop (1858–1928) and George Hendrik Breitner (1857–1923), as well as industrialists like Jacques van Marken (1845-1906) and Abel Labouchere (1860-1940), were educated there. For Delft, the importance of the Polytechnic School (and its successors the Technical College and the current Technical University (TU)) cannot be overestimated. The school served as a booster for both art and industry within Delft and outside of it, and established a lasting reputation for Delft as a city of innovation.
Among the most influential instructors at the Polytechnic School were Adolf le Comte (1850-1921), his successor Bram Gips (1861-1943) and professor of architecture Karel Sluyterman (1863-1931). They were closely involved in artistic developments in the city. And in turn, they educated artists who played a similarly important role in the artistic scene in Delft.
Industry: Delft entrepreneurs and patrons
Modern industry arrived in Delft with the progressive entrepreneur Jacques van Marken (1845-1906). Van Marken graduated from the Polytechnic School in Delft. Only two years later, in 1869, he founded the Dutch Yeast and Methylated Spirits Factory and in 1883, the Netherlands Oil Factory (NOF). Both businesses grew to become extremely successful Delft companies and attracted other establishments – like the Dutch Cable Factory – to Delft. Van Marken recognised the importance of advertising early on and involved influential artists to design for his companies. He commissioned posters and advertising material from Jan Toorop and Theo van Hoytema (1863-1917), to name but a few. Toorop’s so-called Salad Oil Poster of 1894 is now regarded as an icon and even earned Dutch Art Nouveau the nickname ‘salad-oil style.’
Delft industry gave the artistic climate in the city an important impulse. Hugo Tutein Nolthenius (1863-1944), who also studied at the Technical College (the successor of the Polytechnic School) became the vice-president of the Netherlands Oil Factory NOF after it merged with the French company Calvé in 1898. And he too commissioned artists to design advertising material as well as private projects. That way, he built up an important art collection and had his home at Nieuwe Plantage 48 decorated with interior designs by the avant-garde artist Vilmos Huszár and stained-glass windows by Johan Thorn Prikker and Harm Kamerlingh Onnes.
Popular artist Theo van Hoytema was asked to design a number of decorations for the wooden crates in which salad oil was transported. Van Hoytema, who was especially known for his animal and plant designs, drew a crocodile and an elephant for the NOF, framed with lettuce leaves and ground nuts. These designs were stencilled onto the crates in yellow, green and black.
Applied Art: Delft companies, between art and commerce
De Porceleyne Fles – Studio ‘t Prinsenhof – Braat Company
The presence of industry and the Polytechnic School in Delft gave the applied arts in the city an important impulse. Under the artistic guidance of the Polytechnic School instructor Adolf le Comte, for example, the last remaining pottery factory in Delft (De Porceleyne Fles), developed spectacular new forms, decorations and glazes that won high praise at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris.
In 1889, Polytechnic School student Jan Schouten (1852-1937) established Atelier ’t Prinsenhof, which was devoted to manufacturing stained-glass objects that found ready buyers in the Netherlands and abroad. Remember the beautiful stained glass windows I wrote about earlier, in my blog about Villa Rams Woerthe? All produced in Delft at Jan Schoutens Atelier ‘t Prinsenhof.
The 1913 Peace Palace in The Hague (not an Art Nouveau building in itself) is a good example of a Delft Gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. The Porceleyne Fles provided ceramic building materials and Studio ’t Prinsenhof the stained-glass windows; Polytechnic School instructor Abraham Gips designed the ceilings and the Delft Braat Company delivered objects in wrought iron. The latter was founded by Frederik Willem Braat (1822-1889) and specialised in ornamental ironwork, window frames, heating systems and galvanised metals. (They were also responsible for that magnificent gate around Villa Rams Woerthe) Together, these companies put Delft on the map through a combination of innovation, craftsmanship and aesthetics.
All in all a very interesting exhibition. Much too small for my linking, as one can never get enough Art Nouveau in one day, but interesting and educational. It offers a good insight into how everything and everyone was intertwined in those days which I believe was the result of the socio-religious compartmentalization of our society. But that would be the subject of another blog…
The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague will concurrently organise an exhibition featuring Art Nouveau in The Netherlands. So in 2018, visitors will have a unique opportunity to gain a very rich impression of this Second Golden Age of the Dutch arts.
Art Nouveau | New Objectivity | Delft
at Museum Prinsenhof, Sint Agathaplein 1, 2611 HR Delft
30 March – 26 August 2018
Agneta Matthes (wife of Jacques van Marken)
Museum Prinsenhof – ArtNouveau | New Objectivity | Delft
Hugo Tutein Nolthenius (PDF)
Blog ‘Anno 1900’ – Dutch Graphic Art by Sipke v.d. Peppel
III Coup de Fouet International Congress in Barcelona June 2018