The book art of Henry van de Velde – Design museum Gent

Design museum Gent

The book art of Henry van de Velde
From Art Nouveau to Nieuwe Zakelijkheid.
21 March to 1 June 2009

Around 1900 Henry van de Velde figures as an artist of incomparable influence on his generation which saw not only the beginning of a new century, but of a new age.

Henry van de Velde

Friedrich Nietzsche “Ecce Homo”
Insel-Verlag, Leipzig
© John Dieter Brinks

At the beginning of the 20th century all Europeans interested in the arts fixed their eyes, either full of enthusiasm or full of scepticism, on the work of a man who like nobody else seemed to be destined to open the gates for the aesthetics of a ‘Modern Age’: on Henry van de Velde. He regarded himself as the apostle of this new movement, and one of his first demands was to widen the understanding of ‘art’ to include the so far neglected ‘decorative arts’. Thus Van de Velde became the foremost designer of his age.

Van de Velde’s influence was unmatched first because his work was so many-sided. He designed furniture and architecture, wallpapers and silks, silver and china and cutlery. Secondly because he was not only abundantly creative in practice, but also in his theories of a Nouveau Style leading beyond Art Nouveau. Finally he may be regarded as one of the first Europeans : born in Belgium, he worked for decades both in Germany and in Belgium, then for years in the Netherlands and in Switzerland, and examples of his architecture can be seen in a wide range across Europe from Belgium to the Baltic Sates.

Since Van de Velde’s death in 1957 his work has been presented in numerous exhibitions. But never has an exhibition concentrated on one of Van de Velde’s most important achievements : on his art of designing books, of their bindings as well as of their typography.

The exhibition The book art of Henry van de Velde. From Art Nouveau to Nieuwe Zakelijkheid will try to fill this gap. In this it follows Van de Velde’s own convictions and ideas who regarded the book both as “pain quotidien culturel” and as a monument de la pensée. When in 1892 he gave up painting which in his eyes would please only few people, his alternative intention was to turn to the design of books to delight many.

Henry van de Velde

Henry van de Velde “Vom neuen Stil – Der Laienpredigten II. Teil”
Book binding
Insel-Verlag, Leipzig
© John Dieter Brinks

Friedrich Nietzsche “Also sprach Zarathustra”
Insel-Verlag, Leipzig
Book binding
© John Dieter Brinks

Friedrich Nietzsche ““Dionysos Dithyramben””
Insel-Verlag, Leipzig
© John Dieter Brinks

The exhibition has been planned and organised by John Dieter Brinks, Laubach, who has already organised international exhibitions on the Insel Verlag in 1999/2000 and on the Cranach Press in 2004/2005 in Europe and the United States. It is inspired by the conviction that the genesis of Van de Velde’s arts can be shown best on the limited area of the cover of the books which he designed over five decades.

Therefore the exhibition focuses on the development of Van de Velde’s art from ‘ornament’ to ‘line’, i.e. from the influence of Art Nouveua to the creation of the specific Nouveau Style which he had in mind, notwithstanding his being influenced by the functionalism of the 1920s. At the same time the exhibition aims not only showing beautiful bindings and exquisite typography, but at demonstrating the genesis of Van de Velde’s art by showing sketches, proofs and alternatives.

The exhibition was first shown in the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum in The Hague in autumn 2007, and will be shown after the exhibition in Ghent in the Bröhan Museum, Berlin from June to August 2009.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated comprehensive study of Van de Velde’s art of the book by John Dieter Brinks focused on both the scholarly and aesthetic aspects of its subject which has been published in December 2007. John Dieter Brinks’ work on Harry Graf Kessler’s Cranach Press was named the most beautiful scholarly book of Germany in 2003 and received two more national and international awards.


Stampfli & Turci – Art Dealers

Disclaimer & Copyright


~ by Stampfli & Turci on April 15, 2009.

2 Responses to “The book art of Henry van de Velde – Design museum Gent”

  1. I have original etching. Signed in plate.Signed in Pencil.
    May have a interest in selling.
    Immaculate condition.

  2. Van de velde’s work is often amazing, inspiring, and bold. It is a shame that there is not more of it to be shared and appreciated.

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