The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag possesses a multitude of design drawings dating from between 1880 and 1940 and made by artists whose work is also well-represented in the decorative arts collection.This exhibition will be the first ever to present design drawings by Piet Zwart, A.D. Copier, G.W. Dijsselhof and his wife Willy Dijsselhof-Keuchenius, Theo van Hoytema and T.A.C. Colenbrander side by side with the finished objects to which they relate.
Although Piet Zwart (1885-1977) is known chiefly for his pioneering graphic designs and De Stijl interiors, this exhibition will feature his relatively little-known early embroidery designs. Items on show will include design drawings for colourful floral motifs for two children’s dresses and a child’s bonnet, exhibited together with the finished garments. Later work, such as his “√ 2” table service and a geometrically patterned table runner, will also be on display, together with the preparatory designs. Gerrit W. Dijsselhof (1866-1924), a major exponent of Nieuwe Kunst, the Dutch contribution to the international Art Nouveau movement, was fascinated by the fish and birds he drew in Amsterdam’s Artis zoo. Back in his studio, he converted his studies into designs for the decorative arts. This exhibition will include just one of Dijsselhof’s masterpieces: a batik of guinea fowl, shown together with the design drawing.
His wife Willy Dijsselhof-Keuchenius (1865-1960) was also a designer, although now less well-known. She embroidered items like fans, tea cosies, aprons and cushions which were snapped up by the turn-of-the-century Amsterdam elite. Her embroidery designs were donated to the museum in 1981 and can now be linked to objects in the decorative arts collection.
T.A.C. Colenbrander (1841-1930) produced controversial ceramics for the Rozenburg pottery in The Hague. He derived his decorative motifs from nature and had them executed in an Expressionist palette. Despite his daring use of abstraction, the original natural motif is almost always recognisable. The museum has a large collection of Colenbrander’s design drawings and ceramics – not only the final products but also the biscuit-fired versions with underdrawing in water-based paint. In a unique display, all three stages of the design process will be shown here side by side.
The very names of the ‘Pear’ and ‘Comfrey’ glass services reveal the debt owed by their designer, A.D. Copier (1901-1991), to forms found in nature. His design drawing for ‘Pear’ shows how the stalk of the pear is reflected in the octagonal cutting of the wine glass’s stem and foot and how the cross-section of the fruit is echoed in its rounded bowl. Similarly, in the case of ‘Comfrey’, the exhibition will reveal how Copier reduced the form of the plant’s calyx to a basic geometrical shape which could be used to inspire the design of the entire service.
Theo van Hoytema (1863-1917) is known chiefly for his calendars and picture books, but also produced occasional designs for furniture decoration. His bird drawings were traced onto the furniture and then incised into the wood. The exhibition will include a screen and bench adorned with parrots and cockatoos. The multitude of small sketches on which these were based will fill an adjacent wall.