Experience the breathtaking design of the Nieuwe Kunst [New
Art] movement, the Dutch variant of Art Nouveau, characterized by an emphasis
on geometry and influenced by indigenous patterns and techniques of the Dutch
East Indies colony [now Indonesia]. Inspired by the British Arts and Crafts
movement, Dutch designers adopted a commitment to handcraft and to their social
Modern Dutch Design 1890–1910
A variety of influences came together between 1890 and 1910 to create a vital design culture in the Netherlands. Inspired by British Arts and Crafts, Dutch designers adopted a commitment to handcraft and the idea that artistic talent should benefit society. Following the international Art Nouveau movement, they practiced integration of all the arts and drew motifs from nature, rather than eclectic historical precedents. They borrowed from the indigenous patterns and techniques of the Dutch East Indies colony [now Indonesia], as well as the sober Old Dutch furniture from the early seventeenth-century Golden Age. Throughout, an emphasis on geometry emerged as a striking feature of Dutch design.
Dutch designers drew many of these influences together to forge a style called Nieuwe Kunst [new art], the Dutch variant of Art Nouveau. In contrast to the curving lines and sculptural character of Belgian and French Art Nouveau, Dutch Nieuwe Kunst had a more austere, geometric, and two-dimensional character. Among the items displayed, all drawn from the collection of The Wolfsonian–FIU, here are some of the finest examples of this style to be found anywhere outside of the Netherlands.
Door and Frame (1900) by Theo Nieuwenhuis (Dutch, 1866–1951)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
The emphasis on geometry can be seen clearly in the study that Theo Nieuwenhuis, one of the leading Nieuwe Kunst designers, created for the Amsterdam lawyer Ferdinand Kranenburg.
Notice how the woodcarving in the door reduces natural forms into a flat, symmetrical pattern.
Panels (1900) by Theo Nieuwenhuis (Dutch, 1866–1951)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Driehoeken bij ontwerpen van ornament voor zelfstudie en voor scholen [Triangles in Ornamental Design for Self-Study and for Schools] (1896) by Jan Hessel de Groot (Dutch, 1865–1932)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
This manual by siblings De Groot became very influential in Dutch schools of applied arts that were founded around 1880. It expounded a system for using a compass and triangle to combine forms from nature in geometric grids and reduce them to two-dimensional ornaments. The authors were inspired by the mystical doctrines of Theosophy, which held that the cosmos was founded on geometric principles.
Theosophia: Orgaan van de Nederlandsche Theosophische Vereeniging [Theosophy: Organ of the Dutch Theosophical Society] (1896) by Mathieu Lauweriks (Dutch, 1864–1932)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Theosophy was also an inspiration for architect Mathieu Lauweriks and his colleague Karel de Bazel. Teaching in both the Netherlands and Germany, Lauweriks was very influential on the key movements of Dutch design in the early twentieth century, as well as the Bauhaus movement.
Lauweriks’s cover design for the periodical of the Dutch Theosophical Society depicts the emblem of the group rising from a lotus blossom at the center of the composition, within a border of stylized natural forms. The emblem consists of a circle, formed by a snake swallowing its tail and placed atop a small left-facing swastika, a symbol of evolution in ancient religions. Within the circle, a star, known as the Seal of Solomon, is formed by a white triangle pointing up toward spirit and a black triangle pointing down at matter. Inside the star is an ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyph symbolizing life.
Teakettle (1907) by Mathieu Lauweriks (Dutch, 1864–1932)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
The application of abstract geometric principles to the design of practical objects can be seen in Lauweriks’s drawing for a teakettle. He generated the form of the kettle out of a modular series of circles laid out on a square grid that he drew himself.
J. W. Smitt’s Thee en Koffie Etalage Paleis [J. W. Smitt’s Tea and Coffee Storefront Palace] (1893)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
While international Art Nouveau drew much inspiration from Japan, the Dutch interest in Asia leaned toward the East Indies colony, a key source of wealth for the Netherlands. The colonies featured prominently in the country’s participation at international expositions. Pavilions recreated Javanese settlements, presented models of mosques, featured dance and puppet performances, and offered batik demonstrations by Indonesian women.
Rembrandt: 26 Photogravures naar de beste schilderijen der tentoostellingen te Londen Jan. – Febr. 1898 en Amsterdam, Sept. – Oct. 1898 [Rembrandt: 26 Photogravures of His Finest Paintings from the Exhibitions in London and Amsterdam] (1901) by Carel Adolph Lion Cachet (Dutch, 1864–1945)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Many Dutch artists appropriated Indonesian culture, starting from the use of the Javanese wax resist technique, known as batik. Batik was a critical factor in the development of the flat pattern design of Nieuwe Kunst.
C. A. Lion Cachet was the first to experiment with batik, initially on textiles, and, later, on parchment. For the cover of the famous Rembrandt portfolio, he designed a batik pattern that combines geometric shapes with a stylized fern.
Portfolio stand (1903) by Carel Adolph Lion Cachet (Dutch, 1864–1945)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
The Amsterdam art dealer E. J. van Wisselingh & Co. set up workshops for furniture, copper-work, and batik in 1898 to promote Nieuwe Kunst designers . It also formed a partnership with the publisher Scheltema & Holkema to produce luxury books, portfolio stands, and bookcases for wealthy clients. This portfolio by C. A. Lion Cachet incorporates Javanese references in its flat, floral woodcarvings and an inlaid, stylized lyrebird, a recurring Art Nouveau motif.
Portfolio stand (1905) by Theo Neuhuys (Dutch, 1878–1921)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
This monumental stand, a display for large portfolios of art prints, shows the varied influences on Nieuwe Kunst design. Theo Neuhuys’s repetitive foliage motif is based on the geometric principles of ornamentation espoused by Theosophists and taught in Dutch applied arts schools. The stand’s symmetric, austere structure refers to Dutch Golden Age (seventeenth century) furniture.
De stille kracht [The Hidden Force] (1900) by Chris Lebeau (Dutch, 1878–1945)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Chris Lebeau, a versatile artist, designed batik cotton covers in several color variations, as well as a luxury version on velvet, for De stille kracht, a popular novel set in the Dutch East Indies. Lebeau’s design was inspired by lessons in geometric ornament given by the Theosophist architects Karel de Bazel and Mathieu Lauweriks.
No. 505 Vlinde [Butterfly] (1906–39 (designed c. 1906)) by Chris Lebeau (Dutch, 1878–1945)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Lebeau’s aim was to design high quality objects for people of all classes. In 1904, after gaining fame as a batik printer, he began designing textiles that could be produced by machine, making them affordable to large numbers of people. He started a successful collaboration with the manufacturer Van Dissel, which for decades produced his table damasks, featuring stylized natural elements set in geometric grids.
Delftsche Slaolie [Delft Salad Oil] (1895) by Jan Toorop (Dutch, b. Indonesia 1858–1928)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
A renowned example of Dutch graphic design, this poster shows that the influence of the East Indies was not limited to batik. The designer Jan Toorop, born on the island of Java, used a linear style and strong silhouettes to evoke Javanese shadow puppets, elevating the preparation of salad to a mystic ritual. These flowing lines align his work, to some degree, with French and Belgian Art Nouveau.
The poster was so well-received that Toorop printed several variations in different colors. After the poster appeared, Nieuwe Kunst was often mockingly dubbed “the salad oil style.”
Een boek van verbeelding: Sproken en vertellingen [A Book of Imagination: Tales and Stories] (1893) by Jan Toorop (Dutch, b. Indonesia 1858–1928)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Toorop’s curvilinear style was influenced by several years he spent in Brussels in the 1880s. There, he joined Les Vingt [The Twenty], a group of young, progressive Belgian artists centered around James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff. On his return to the Netherlands, he turned toward Symbolist painting, which he applied to posters and book covers. Toorop was the most prominent Dutch artist of this period; his influence extended from the Viennese painter Gustav Klimt to the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Loten van de Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid [Lottery of the National Exhibition of Women’s Labor] (1898) by Jan Toorop (Dutch, b. Indonesia 1858–1928)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Toorop’s poster for an exhibition about women’s work reflects the influence of his native Java, especially horror vacui (fear of empty space)—a term referring to artwork where all available space is filled with imagery. Showcasing women’s contributions to society as workers in an array of professions, the exhibition was held in The Hague on the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina.
Tentoonstelling de Vrouw 1813–1913 [Exhibition: The Woman 1813–1913] (1913) by Wilhelmina Drupsteen (Dutch, 1880–1966)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the liberation from the French in 1813, the Amsterdam feminist movement organized an exhibition showcasing women’s achievements.Artist Wilhelmina Drupsteen won the poster design competition, open only to women, creating a rigidly symmetrical composition influenced by the geometric design approach taught by her mentors Mathieu Lauweriks and Karel de Bazel.
Harwich Hoek van Holland. New Short Route June 1st 1893 (1893) by Hendrik Petrus Berlage (Dutch, 1856–1934)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
This poster celebrating the new route from Harwich to Hoek was designed by architect H. P. Berlage, who created a symmetric composition with geometric and stylized motifs.
The most important architect in turn-of-the-century Netherlands, Berlage trained at the Polytechnic in Zürich. His most renowned building is the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (known as the Beurs, 1898–1903). In 1911 he traveled to the United States, where he admired the architecture of Louis Sullivan and especially Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work he introduced to the Netherlands.
Chair (1895) by Hendrik Petrus Berlage (Dutch, 1856–1934)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
The chair shows the influence that Berlage drew from both the British Arts and Crafts movement and from Old Dutch furniture. The rounded brass studs that secure the wicker seat to the apron also serve as ornamental accents, an expression of the principle that structure should dictate appearance. The Dutch oak used for the chair was neither painted nor bent, privileging “honesty” in the use of materials.
Clock (1913) by Jac. van den Bosch (Dutch, 1868–1948)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
In 1900, Berlage and furniture designer Jac. van den Bosch founded ’t Binnenhuis. The cooperative firm produced and sold modern Dutch furniture and decorative art objects, meant to be affordable to all classes.
Van den Bosch was influenced by the Dutch East Indies in his designs. The dome-shaped top of this clock and the eyes beneath the clock-face suggest features of Javanese temple architecture and decoration, respectively.
Teakettles with warmers (1903) by Jan Eisenloeffel (Dutch, 1876–1957)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Jan Eisenloeffel’s metal tableware with plain geometric shapes, inspired by Japanese craftsmen, was sold at ’t Binnenhuis.
Table lamp (1906) by Eduard Cuypers (Dutch, 1859–1927)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
This lamp with plain, rounded surfaces that reveal its construction, was designed by Eduard Cuypers, an architect active in Amsterdam and the Dutch East Indies. Cuypers’s multifaceted approach to design paved the way for young architects Joan Van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, and Piet Kramer, who eventually became key figures in Amsterdam School design.
Elevation drawing of the American Hotel, Amsterdam, plate from De Architect, 20, no.3 (1912) by Willem Kromhout (Dutch, 1864–1940)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Willem Kromhout’s American Hotel, with its combination of Dutch Renaissance and East Asian references, is an outstanding example of Nieuwe Kunst architecture. Kromhout created a vibrant, asymmetric façade centered on the corner tower, with arches, bow-windows, decorative tile panels, and alternating brick and natural stone.
Chandelier, For the American Hotel, Amsterdam (1900) by Willem Kromhout (Dutch, 1864–1940)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
For the café of the American Hotel, Kromhout designed this bronze chandelier, a radial structure with rigid plant-shaped braces, culminating in the forms of birds. It is a three-dimensional extension of the geometric reduction of natural forms stressed in applied arts education of the time.
De smaak [Taste], From the Bensdorp Chocolate Factory (1899) by Theo Molkenboer (Dutch, 1871–1920)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Another Nieuwe Kunst showcase in Amsterdam is the Bensdorp Chocolate Factory. In the building, Anton Joling, who was trained at the office of Neo-Gothic architect Pierre Cuypers, combined his mentor’s influence with geometric motifs and references to Asian cultures.
Theo Molkenboer, who designed the factory’s interior and exterior ceramic ornaments, created a symbolic representation of taste. This panel features a Byzantine-inspired figure holding a cocoa bean, a product imported from the Dutch East and West Indies.
Relief (1899) by Rien Hack (Dutch, 1871–1939)The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
The sculptor Rien Hack incorporated exotic references into the basalt reliefs, such as this stylized animal head, on the Bensdorp Factory. The exterior of the building still exists.
Modern Dutch Design is organized by The Wolfsonian–Florida International University. The exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York; the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Miami; the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; and the Netherland-America Foundation. .