This is Rietveld

Gerrit Thomas Reitveld was born on this day, 24 June 1888, here in Utrecht. The son of a joiner, he would go on to become a world-famous architect, designer, and principal player in the development of De Stijl artistic movement.

In celebration of his birthday, I thought I’d share a few (okay, probably a lot of) photos of his work. Although you can find numerous works of his on display at the Centraal Museum here in Utrecht, you can see a wide array of his architectural works here in Utrecht and throughout the country, and you’ll often be surprised when you learn it’s a Rietveld.
This is a Rietveld
Side View
… but this white building is also a Rietveld.
Oudkerkhof
This is a Rietveld
Chauffeur's House 65.365
… and this is a Rietveld. He even lived on the upper floor for a while.
Colourful Rietveld
These are all Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Take a Seat
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Rietveld Steltman Chair
Lego My Chair
These are also Rietveld:
Warm Glow
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Even this is Rietveld:
Van Gogh Museum

As always, it’s a joy to celebrate the birthday of this tremendously talented artist and native of Utrecht.

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Rietveld Chairs on Display at the Centraal Museum

Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenIn December of last year, the Centraal Museum was able to purchase the Prototype Low Chair (center) by Gerrit Rietveld’s at a Sotheby’s auction. The iron chair, which dates to c.1946-1950/52, was an experimentation by Rietveld in working with metal, using some of the techniques he had worked out in his usual use of molded plywood. Although the chairs go for large prices these days, they, like the designs by Ray and Charles Eames, were meant to be affordable through easy construction.

The Low Chair was one of a series of chairs that Rietveld exhibited in Denmark in the early years after World War II, and it was this exhibition that led to the overall design of the chairs being known as Danish chairs. The technical drawings for the Low Chair suggest that it was intended to be massproduced, but in the end, that particular design was not manufactured. However, the Danish chairs (the two flanking chairs in the photo) were produced.Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
The Prototype Low Chair was recently put on display at the Centraal Museum, and having read the news stories about the purchase, it was nice to get to see the chair in person. It’s on display in a small room often dedicated to one or two individual Rietveld pieces.

However, there’s another room in the museum, the Van Baaren Zaal (Van Baaren Gallery), which features additional examples of Rietveld’s furniture designs. Amid the paintings in the room, which were collected by the Van Baaren family, the museum has placed examples of some of Rietveld’s furniture. The simple, modern shapes form an interesting contrast to the often traditional paintings in the collection. Take for instance, two variations of Rietveld’s Zigzag Chair that sit amid portraits and florals.Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenOther pieces currently on display include a sideboard/buffet piece that I am particularly fond of and would love to own a reproduction of someday. There are also additional chairs, and even a child’s wagon on display. Although only a small sampling of Rietveld’s work, it’s a nice selection of pieces.Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenGerrit Rietveld Meubelen
The Prototype Low Chair is on display until 13 April 2014. You can see all of the pieces in situ in this video from the Centraal Museum (in Dutch).

The Rietveld Steltman Chair

Rietveld Steltman Chair
A number of people visit my blog on a regular basis after searching for “Rietveld chairs”. Although I usually talk more about his architecture, I do have a few posts about his chairs. I saw examples of most, if not all, of them during the special Rietveld Year exhibit at the Centraal Museum, but it’s always nice to come across them individually, even as part of another exhibit at the museum.

That’s what happened Friday when I visited the Centraal Museum to see the Vrede van Utrecht exhibit (more about that in the future). Before seeing that exhibit, I took a look through another exhibit featuring art and artists related to Utrecht through the ages. There were some painting of Utrecht I haven’t come across before, as well as others that I’ve only seen online.

It wasn’t all painting, though. There were also pieces of furniture and even some clothing, including a pair of shoes that I am still coveting. Not surprisingly, though, there were a few Rietveld chairs on display. As well as the obvious Red-and-Blue Chair, they also had the Steltman Chair (pictured above).

This has always been one of my favorites, second only to the Utrecht chair. The various horizontal and vertical planes and the use of positive and negative space creates a chair that seems to shift and morph depending on the angle from which you view it. There’s a wonderful blog where someone has built a replica of Rietveld’s chair and he has a variety of photos showing just how much the chair changes, depending on the angle from which it’s viewed.

The chair is known as the Steltman Chair, because Rietveld built it in 1963 (shortly before his death in 1964) for the Steltman Jewelry Store in Den Haag (The Hague). In fact, Rietveld designed the whole interior of the Steltman showroom, the chair being just one aspect of it. You can see a photo of the Rietveld interior on the store’s website. You can also see one of the original chairs at the newly redesigned and reopened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

In the News

There are a couple of recent stories that have caught my interest, with some of them having tie-ins to things I’ve posted about recently or in general. I thought I’d do a quick run-down here of some of the stories and why they’re of interest to me.

Tick Tock

First up is the news that the Domtoren is no longer signaling the quarter hour as it used to do. It seems that one of the pieces that is used for the automatic playing is damaged through normal wear and tear, so it won’t be used until it can be replaced. The current piece in question has been there since 1980. Fortunately, once the piece is replaced, the Domtoren will go back to chiming every 15 minutes.

Lego My Chair
Next up is the news that Rietveld’s famous Red and Blue Chair (seen here in a Lego version) is inspiring artists yet again. DWA, along with RnB, has used the chair as the basis for their redesign project:

The redesign project is an experiment into using music as inspiration in the design process, we ‘remix’ existing designs according to various musical genres, with the hope of making design as expressive as music.

I particularly like the RnB IKEA (pop) version of the chair, perhaps because of the interactive element, as well as the humor of it.

Headscarves
Finally, in somewhat more serious news, Queen Beatrix has been in Abu Dhabi this past week on a state visit, and while there she visited the Great Mosque. Naturally, she wore a headscarf/hijab (over her hat) as is required of any woman wishing to enter the mosque. Of course, members of the generally anti-Muslim PVV party decided to lambaste the queen for doing so, claiming she was legitimizing the suppression of women. The queen fired back that it was “echt onzin/sheer nonsense”.

As one of the articles about the story points out, “Ironically the party’s remarks came while Beatrix was in Abu Dhabi, one of the Islamic world’s most emancipated states, where two-thirds of university students and 70 per cent new business owners are women.”

As another article says, Wilders, the leader of the PVV, has certainly been known to wear a yarmulke when visiting synagogues, despite the fact that he is not Jewish. Depending on the branch of Judaism, there are sects where you could argue that there is similar suppression of women. For that matter, I remember lessons learned at a Southern Baptist school that also made it clear that women were lesser beings. In other words, Wilders and his supporters are being a bit hypocritical to say the least.

So, there’s my roundup of stories I’ve come across this week and found of interest. Hopefully, you found some of it at least vaguely interesting, as well. If you’re in Utrecht tomorrow, don’t forget it’s the kick-off of the monthly Cultural Sunday events held throughout the city. There’s always something interesting going on somewhere!

Oh, one last thing … Go Saints! (The New Orleans Saints are playing a play-off game tonight. Fingers crossed that they win!)

Rietveld’s Chairs

De Stijl
Gerrit Rietveld didn’t just work as an architect. He was also a designer and created some very famous chairs. One of the most famous is the Rood-Blauw Leunstoel (Red-Blue Chair), which has been getting some extra mileage this year during the Rietveldjaar celebrations.
Blue Blauw

Next to the Rietveld-Schröder House is a highway overpass that was constructed in the 1960s. In 2001, the overpass (or technically the underpass) got a Rietveld-inspired makeover. The whole thing is covered in blue and white tiles and depicts many of Rietveld’s most famous chair designs. The tile project is appropriately titled Sitting in Blue.
Stoelen
I’m quite fond of the zigzag chair as seen above. Many of these chairs are featured in a special video made by Utrecht band C-mon & Kypski. They’ve been working with the Centraal Museum to help promote the Rietveldjaar. They’re also performing a concert at the Tivoli here in town later this month. It’s a catchy song and the video is a fun play of musical chairs. Check it out!

Street Life with Art
For more information about Rietveld and for a view of the many different works he designed, check out the new Rietveld Collection website. It’s in English and Dutch and is a great way to learn more about his work.