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6/2/2023

A Pioneer of Modern Design: Gerrit Rietveld

Many Dutch designers continue to draw inspiration from Rietveld's innovative perspective on furniture and architecture, which defined De Stijl and had a significant impact both domestically and abroad.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Dutch designer and architect, was a pioneer of modern design. Many Dutch designers continue to draw inspiration from his innovative perspective on furniture and architecture, which defined De Stijl and had a significant impact both domestically and abroad.

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Learning the Art

When he was 11 years old, Rietveld started working as his father’s apprentice at the furniture shop. Het Kunstindustrieel Onderwijs der Vereeniging the Utrechtsch Museum van Kunstnijverheid in Utrecht provided evening classes, which Rietveld started to attend in 1904. There, he learned modeling, technical drawing, style and ornamentation theory, painting, drawing, and modeling. Rietveld attended evening classes in art-industrial education from 1904 to 1908 while also working during the day in the goldsmith shop of jeweler C.J.A. Begeer. He also followed an evening course with architect P.J.C. Klaarhamer.

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Starting His Workshop

In 1917, Rietveld opened his own furniture workshop. He made acquaintance with one of his customers, the architect H.G.J. Schelling, who introduced him to Tagore's writings and philosophy. This resulted in Rietveld growing away from religion.

In 1919, Rietveld came into contact with Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, J.J.P. Oud, and Jan Wils were some of the De Stijl group members, through the architect Robert van 't Hoff. They were drawn to Rietveld's "red-blue chair" design, which was still tinted brown at the time, and he joined the magazine "De Stijl" as a collaborator. In 1924, he handed over the furniture workshop to Gerard van de Groenekan.

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The Rietveld Schröder House

In the same year Groenekan was handed Rietveld’s workshop, Rietveld was hired by Truus Schröder to design his first home, which was this one. Schröder played a significant part in the design process. She desired simplicity and an environment that liberated her rather than restricted her. It rapidly attracted worldwide attention. This famous site is still open for visits today. Following that, Rietveld carried on creating and overseeing exhibitions not only in the Netherlands but also everywhere else in the world.

The Rietveld Schröder house, by Helena.

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Post-War Life

Rietveld was unable to continue his career as an architect during the war because he refused to report for duty. He was, at one point, wanted by the Germans for criminal activity. For several years after the war, he had to support himself by designing exhibits and teaching.

He didn't start getting architectural commissions again until the 1950s. Rietveld collaborated on the 1951 De Stijl exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition was also presented in 1952 at the Venice Biennale and at the MOMA in New York .In addition to Piet Mondriaan, Bart van der Leck, and Theo van Doesburg's paintings, there were photographs of J.J.P. Oud's architectural designs and watercolors of the Schröder home's facades.

He designed 12 major architectural sights, including the Juliana Hall in Utrecht, Weverij de Ploeg in Bergeijk, the art academies in Arnhem and Amsterdam, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, in addition to more than 100 residential homes and three social housing projects. 350 pieces of furniture were designed by Rietveld over the course of his lifetime.

At the beginning of 1964, Gerrit Rietveld received an honorary degree from the Delft University of Technology. Soon after, the Association of Dutch Architects elected him as an honorary member.

One day after turning 76, on June 25, 1964, he passed away in the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht.

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The 'Crate' Series

Rietveld designed the 'crate' series of furniture built from standardized pine planks - cheap material for packaging crates - which were soon well-known as ‘crate furniture’.

Metz & Co., where Rietveld furniture has been available since 1930, began selling avant-garde creations in 1935. The desk built of crates was purchased by the main store on Amsterdam's Keizersgracht during this period before the war. This piece of furniture didn't have a hefty price tag. A painted replica could be purchased for 16 guilders, while a desk designed in 1931 by Rietveld and Schröder was ten times as expensive. The furniture was referred to as "weekend furniture" and was appropriate for "weekend houses, sunrooms, student and children's rooms" in the store's advertisements. This intended application gently conveys the store's somewhat doubtful opinion of Rietveld's most recent creations in addition to revealing the wealthy customer.

The crate desk and accompanying crate chair.

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Sources:
Rietveld Foundation: Home - Rietveld Stichting (gerrit-rietveld.nl)
Kunstconsult: www.kunstconsult.com‍

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