Schröder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964)
Dutch minimalist architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld was a member of the De Stijl movement. Significant for his work is how he pared his design down to basic cubist elements and often used primary colours to emphasise the different planes. Most of his furniture was designed and manufactured to accompany his architectural commissions.
His lengthy career began already as a young boy in his father’s carpentry shop in Utrecht. The shop, catering to the bourgeois taste of the local clientele, produced quality period pieces of furniture. He left the shop in 1917 to set up an establishment of his own. This move marked a definite break with the traditions of his father’s work.
His first attempts in search of his own artistic line, were influenced by the Amsterdam School. Rietveld re-invented the structure of chairs and other objects and built them as constructivist sculptures. In 1918 he designed an early version of his legendary Red and Blue Chair. It was published in the De Stijl Magazine, the magazine of the movement of which he became a member in 1919. In this way Rietveld came in contact with various architects associated with the modern Dutch movement. They were all looking for a way to purify their work, to remove all remnants of past styles and influences. As the fame of De Stijl rapidly spread, Rietveld’s reputation grew from that of a local craftsman to an architect recognized in avant-garde circles across Europe. While working on the Schröder House, built in 1925, he left his furniture workshop with his long-time assistant, Gerhard van der Groenekan. Most of Rietveld’s furniture designs were sold at Metz & Co, a Dutch department store.
Rietveld’s career proceeded uninterrupted until 1943. He then was subsequently barred from practising as an architect, due to his refusal to join the Nazi-controlled Kulturkammer. After the war, the country and Rietveld gradually returned to normality, and Rietveld continued his work until he died at an age of 76.
Among his numerous furniture models, The Zig Zag chair, The Red and Blue Chair, the Schelling and Military series remain as eternal design icons. Gerrit Rietveld’s designs are to be found in the most important museum collections over the world.