• Henry van de Velde Bloemenwerf Armchair
The design goes back to Henry van de Velde's ground-breaking demonstration of his New Style, which he presented to the public in the ''Gesamtkunstwerk'' (''total work of art'') which was his first own house. Built in the Brussels suburb of Uccle, "Bloemenwerf" House was at first the target of derision and caricature and attracted crowds of curious onlookers.

It was, however, distinguished by consummate mastery of design and, as such, laid the groundwork for its creator's reputation throughout Europe among those in Berlin and Paris who were seriously interested in innovative design. After wrenching psychological crises led him to abandon painting in 1892/93, the young Belgian found a new vocation and mission in the decorative and applied arts, in which he succeeded through his own single-minded efforts and his wife's unstinting help.

Financed by his rich mother-in-law, "Bloemenwerf" House was the showcase for the most important icons of his revolutionary conception of art. Apart from its decorative value, the primary function of art was to be of service to humanity. The quintessence of his mission was exemplified for Henry van de Velde by the word "reason" - and his furniture in particular meaningfully reflects this device. He had the sideboard and the centre element of his table clad with brass plates so that crockery and hot dishes might rest on them without damaging the finish. His chairs, too, follow this principle in their symbolic design, which evokes both harmony and comfort.

The Belgian designer made such an impact with his first artistic manifesto that he had to repeat his dining-room suite for quite a number of new clients. Although he personally was satisfied with ash, an unpretentious and serviceable wood, his clients demanded such exotic woods as padouk, mahogany or oak. Seats, too, represented variations on the originally simple woven straw and were upholstered in leather or fabric. In addition to the dining-room chairs with and without arms, he also made a smaller variant for his children, whose number was rapidly increasing.

The family highly appreciated their first dining-room and retained it as it was for the rest of their lives. Shortly before his death van de Velde showed his gratitude to the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum by donating these pieces of furniture to it. Variants of these chairs are in in Weimar (Kunstsammlungen), The Hague (Gemeente-museum), Berlin (Bröhan-Museum), Darmstadt (Landesmuseum) and Ghent (the Museum for the Applied Arts). Executed in solid beechwood, stained. Upholstery: leather and fabric.

H: 98.5 cm
W: 58 cm
D: 51 cm
SH: 42 cm
AH: 63.5 cm

Henry van de Velde