Its probably fair to say that given the importance of Henry van de Velde’s decade in Weimar for the development of 20th century European design and architecture, the Thüringen town let him down. Badly.
In 1902 Henry van de Velde moved to Weimar to take up the position of Director of the newly established Kunstgewerbeschule; a position which he used to develop his ideas of a “Neue Stil” in architecture and design.
When war came to Europe Henry van de Velde was, as a foreign national, not only obliged to report to the local police station with a nerve sapping regularity but also – and for van de Velde the worst aspect – had to endure the distrust and disapproval of his townsfolk.
In 1915 van de Velde finally capitulated and left Germany for his native Belgium.
But not before suggesting Walter Gropius as his successor in Weimar…. But that is another story.
Some 100 years after Henry van de Velde left Weimar, and 150 years after his birth, the town is finally devoting a major exhibition to one of the most important figures in European art, design and architecture.
Featuring some 700 exhibits “Henry van de Velde. Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit” is the most extensive van de Velde exhibition ever staged and presents a wide ranging exploration of one of the leading protagonists of the late 19th / early 20th century shift from historicism to modernism: a shift whose effect can be felt today and which still plays a central role in the discourse around art, design and architecture.
As an adherent of the concept of the “Gesamtkunstwerk” Henry van de Velde’s canon covers in effect all media: metals, porcelain, textiles, paint, wood, glass, leather, clay, etc, etc, etc….
Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit presents examples of all these facets of van de Velde’s creativity alongside examples of his architectural and furniture design work.
The result is a fascinating profile of a man driven by the belief that there must be more, must be something better than that offered by his time and his contemporaries.
As an exhibition it may not fully make-up for his treatment during the war years, but it is definitely a strong indication of a real desire to apologise.
“Henry van de Velde. Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit” runs at the Neues Museum Weimar until June 23rd 2013.
Full details can be found at www.klassik-stiftung.de