25 March 2006 till 11 June 2006

K.P.C. de Bazel: designer to the elite

Persbeeld tentoonstelling K.P.C. de Bazel: ontwerper voor de elite

Karel Petrus Cornelis de Bazel (1869 – 1923) is known in the Netherlands principally as an architect. He built many country villas in the Gooi (North Holland) and designed the headquarters of the Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij  in Vijzelstraat, Amsterdam. That he was also extremely active and influential in the field of interior design is less widely realised. The forthcoming exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will be the first in history to present a representative selection of De Bazel’s designs for domestic interiors: luxury furniture and innovative glassware.

Mathematical systems

De Bazel began his career as a carpenter’s apprentice but spent his evenings training to be an architect at the Hague Academy of Art. In 1889 he obtained employment as an architectural draughtsman at the office of P.J.H. Cuypers, where he met J. M. L. Lauweriks iIn 1893 he and Lauweriks visited the British Museum in London and were fascinated by the examples of Egyptian  and Assyrian art that they saw and sketched there. A year later, they joined the Theosophical Society and in 1895 set up their own office, the Atelier voor Architectuur, Kunstnijverheid en Decoratieve Kunst (‘Studio for architecture and the applied and decorative arts’). De Bazel’s furniture was initially Neo-Gothic in style but, influenced by Theosophy and the art of antiquity, he soon began to adopt mathematical systems of design which led to harmonious, classical proportions in the interior.  

Furniture

After the turn of the century, he moved to Bussum and set up his own practice as an architect. Alongside this, in 1904 he joined forces with C.A. Oosschot and K. van Leeuwen in setting up a furniture workshop called De Ploeg(‘The plough’). Initially, the highly priced furniture produced at  this Amsterdam workshop was remarkably simple and uncluttered. In later years, it came to be characterised by a synthesis of Classical and oriental design principles.

For De Bazel, as a true adherent of Theosophy, exterior and interior were virtually indistinguishable. Left to himself, he would have delivered nothing but ‘total design concepts’. He saw not just each house, but each room as a reflection of the cosmos, every part of which must be in harmony with every other. However, his clients – members of wealthy aristocratic families, industrialists and artists – regarded his expensive, refined designs mainly as status symbols.  De Bazel produced plans for around seventy private residences in the course of his career, but supplied furniture for only twenty of them. It was rare indeed for the entire interior to be based on his designs. In 1909, De Ploeg produced a luxurious, lavishly decorated cradle for Princess (later Queen) Juliana. Starting in 1915, De Bazel produced a number of innovative designs for the Leerdam glassworks.

Berlage

De Bazel occupied a rather isolated position in his own day, when – thanks to Berlage – the concept of art by and for the entire community was at the height of its popularity. But although De Bazel produced designs that made no reference to folk art and were available only to a small social elite, they are still unmistakably products of their time. Like Berlage and his disciples, De Bazel was engaged in a campaign to civilise society. He was convinced that the wisdom and beauty of the divine would filter down via the elite to imbue the whole of society.

Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by a Dutch-language catalogue published in collaboration with Waanders Uitgevers. Entitled K.P.C. de Bazel (1869 – 1923) Ontwerpen voor het Interieur, it is written by Yvonne Brentjens and contains a contribution by Titus Eliëns (€29,95).

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