CURRENT PROJECTS THAT INSPIRE US.
Here are some of our favorite current projects - books, new research, exhibitions, renovations, and even commercial try-outs - that highlight how HVDV is still inspiring innovation and design thinking.
Belgian historian Ruben Mantels to publish new Henry van de Velde biography
"A line in time. The life of Henry van de Velde (1863-1957)" is the working title of a new biography about Henry van de Velde. The Henry van de Velde Foundation is pleased to announce it will support the research and writing of this biography. Its author, Ruben Mantels (1979), is a well known Belgian historian. His interest in Van de Velde stems from his earlier work on the ‘Boekentoren' (of which Van de Velde was the architect), on the history of Ghent University (where Van de Velde taught between 1925 and 1936) and on August Vermeylen (a kindred spirit, with whom Van de Velde published the Flemish literary journal Van Nu & Straks during the 1890s).
Mantels says: "I am very excited the Henry van de Velde Foundation has agreed to support my work, together with Ghent University Library”. He adds: "It is precisely the multi-faceted aspect of Van de Velde’s art, his long life and the international dimension of his oeuvre that require biographical synthesis, which will simultaneously serve as European cultural history. In my book, I will strive to capture the ‘line’ in Van de Velde's life, and to portray him against the backdrop of political and cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries".
Mr. Mantels will work several years on this biography, which is expected to be published before or by the occasion of the centennial of La Cambre in 2027.
Newly released "biography" of HVDV's iconic Booktower
The ‘Boekentoren’, designed by Henry van de Velde, has housed the Ghent University library since 1942. But this unusual library is much more than just an iconic building.
In Towers of books, the historian Ruben Mantels recounts the turbulent history of the library, that is much older than its tower. In 1797 the library was inaugurated. Mantels tells its history from the ‘liberation of the book’ to the ‘powerful thrust of Modernism’, from the French Revolution to the digital revolution and Google Books. Portraits of librarians, the reading public and the collections are all given a place, while innumerable illustrations and photos bring the story of the Tower of Books to life.
With regard to Henry van de Velde, Mantels devotes a whole new chapter on the building history of his ‘Boekentoren’. He reveals how August Vermeylen, an old friend of Van de Velde, intervened by King Albert I to grant the building of a new library to Van de Velde. 'On 22 February 1933, Vermeylen wrote in his diary: ‘Audience with the King: discussion about […] the mission of the Library to Van de Velde.’ The long building history would last until 1954. The war caused multiple problems and made the Boekentoren a splendid, but unfinished building. In a letter from 1 September 1940, Van de Velde wrote discouragingly and called the Boekentoren ‘one of the toughest assignments I have faced in my life’. In his in the 1960s published memoires, Van de Velde described the whole undertaking as ‘absolute agony’ and one that brought his firm ‘to the brink of ruin’.
Until its still ongoing restoration in the 2000s, Mantels has written the ‘biography’ of Van de Velde’s most important public building in Belgium, the Boekentoren.
Click here to get a hardcopy of “Towers of Books” (in Dutch only).
The book is also available as an ebook in English.
Photo: Collection Boekentoren Gent
Easel to Edifice - a comparative study
In 2019, Common Ground Research Networks published Judith E. Stone's comparative study of two Art Nouveau Masters, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Henry van de Velde. Both Masters began their professional careers as studio, "easel" artists, but soon shifted their creative energies to the functional realms of architecture and design. However, their creative paths eventually diverged, Mackintosh returning to painting during the final years of his career, while van de Velde continued his work in architecture and the applied arts well into his eighth decade. Stone devotes considerable attention to van de Velde's dedication to the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, according to which every element in an architectural structure - home, school, museum, performance venue - is executed in accordance with a single stylistic approach. In addition, as her research proceeded, Stone was increasingly impressed with van de Velde's cautious, selective acceptance of industrial "mass" production, as opposed to traditional hand craftsmanship. His caution leading ultimately to his historic feud with German architectural theorist Hermann Muthesius regarding the standardization inherent in industrial production. Finally, Stone found the high degree of streamlined, Bauhaus-derived modernism evident in van de Velde's later architectural projects especially striking, indeed unique in light of the conservatism of his architectural contemporaries.
Click here to purchase a copy of the book.
Dog on Booktower
Recenty, a full-size bronze statue of a smooth-haired fox terrier has been placed on top of the Book tower in Gent. It was part of the thorough renovation of the Book tower. Descendants of Van de Velde were immediately reminded of the fox terrier their great-grandfather had, seen in various photos. This was, however, never the starting point of photographer Michiel Hendryckx.
Click here to see a video about the wonderful story behind this dog on the Book tower.
Photo by Geert Roels
Cahier Henry van de Velde - now available!
One of the objectives of the foundation is to make scientific material on Henry van de Velde easily accessible for the English speaking world.
We therefore supported the Fonds Henry van de Velde asbl (La Cambre, Brussels) in its ambition to translate in English a special issue of the Cahiers Henry van de Velde dedicated to the close relationships and influences between van de Velde, Walter Gropius and the artistic, economic and political spheres in Weimar at the eve of the Bauhaus’ foundation. This original essay signed by Anne Van Loo – a major specialist of van de Velde life and work – was first published in the framework of the Bauhaus centenary in 2019 and it was the starting point of an international conference on van de Velde and the Bauhaus, held in Brussels in February 2019.
This e-book is now available in English - for free - for the academic world and other interested parties.
Monogram: HVDV - the artist as designer
In 2019, a monogram on HVDV by Richard Hollis was published. It is the first major study on Henry van de Velde’s work in English for 30 years. The book, called “Van de Velde: The artist as designer”, contains over 300 illustrations and focuses on the tension between HVDV as a creator or artist and as the designer.
Richard Hollis is a writer and design lecturer, who first became interested in Henry van de Velde’s work when visiting the Kunst-gewerbemuseum in Zurich in 1958. His book portrays the continuing appreciation for Henry van de Velde’s work.
Richars Hollis: “The introduction to my book describes my continuing admiration for Henry van de Velde. The influence of English writers and designers was particularly interesting.”
A copy of the book can be ordered here.
Kuenzli, Horst Honored with NEH Grants for Book Projects
Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art history, received a $250,000 Scholarly Editions and Translations grant. She and project co-directors Michael André and Kathleen James-Chakraborty will use the funds to prepare a critical edition and translation of a selection of writings by the Belgian artist and essayist Henry van de Velde titled Henry van de Velde: Selected Essays, 1889–1914.
Kuenzli also is working on a monograph titled Henry van de Velde: Designing Modernism. Together with Selected Essays, these projects recover van de Velde’s important role in Neo-Impressionist painting and the German Werkbund, and they demonstrate how ideas of internationalism and the total work of art lie at the heart of modern approaches to museum display, art education, and industrial design.
You can pre-order the book via this link.
Renovation Book Tower Gent
One of the most daring Henry van de Velde projects going on at the moment is the restoration and renovation of the Boekentoren in Gent, Belgium. The library in this building houses 3 million books. Van de Velde designed the Boekentoren for the University of Gent in 1936. The building was finalized in 1942. Because of its strategic location on top of a small hill in Gent, the tower was used by the Germans in the 2nd World War. Due to the intensive usage of the building during the war combined with poor repairs in the past, the university took a bold decision: invest almost €50 million to complete a full renovation of the Boekentoren. Architects Robbrecht and Daem were selected to design the renovation.
You can follow the progress of the restoration project as well as the future plans for the Boekentoren here.
Tea gown - 2019 at Klassik Stiftung Weimar
The Klassik Stiftung Weimar is currently showcasing the “Van de Velde, Nietzsche and Modernism around 1900” exhibition at the Neues Museum Weimar. For this exhibition the Stiftung has recreated a beautiful tea gown which Henry van de Velde designed for and with his wife Marie in 1896. Unfortunately, the dress itself doesn’t exist anymore. Only the collar, the cuffs and the hem have stood the test of time while photographs of Maria van de Velde give an impression of how the tea gown was worn.
The ornamental embroideries, with which the collar, sleeve and hem are trimmed, were designed by Henry. Marie, working with a seamstress, took charge of the realization. The wide-cut waist allows the wearer to decide for herself whether she wishes to wear a corset. The gown was made specifically for Marie and was one of her favorites. More than likely for that reason, it is one of the most frequently pictured morning dresses by van de Velde.
Find out more here.
Replica chairs – 2019 at Klassik Stiftung Weimar
Klassik Stiftung Weimar, has two chairs of Henry van de Velde in its collection:
• “Model Bloemenwerf”
• “Model Kessler”
They will have replicas of these chairs in their upcoming permanent exhibition (beginning April 5th, 2019 for several years) to give the visitors also haptic access to the works, especially visually handicapped people.
Visit the website of Klassik Stiftung Weimar here.
Bauhaus Jubilee Coin - 2019
The German Federal Government has minted a 20-euro commemorative coin "100 Years Bauhaus” which was issued on 19 March 2019. The coin honors the founding of Bauhaus by Walter Gropius on April 1, 1919.
The image on the coin shows the eventful and exciting world of Bauhaus. It encompasses all areas of artistic design that Bauhaus wanted to combine into a Gesamtkunstwerk. Through this complexity of content, the coin accompanies the observer through 100 years of Bauhaus. Amon them is a detail of the School of Art in Weimar by van de Velde.
For orders (website in German only), click here.