Saturday, April 16, 2011

van de Velde Behrens & Guimard — phytomorphism (plant patterns)

Pictured clockwise starting top left:

Leeuwarden Railway Station, interior column tile detail, designer anonymous, c. 1860s
Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands
© 2011 photograph by versluis

Peter Behrens
Ornamented initials to match the Behrens-Schrift type designs
for Rudhard Typefoundry, 1902. Image source: Mosley, James. “St Brides Printing Library.” Baseline International Typographics Journal, St Bride’s Issue (1990): 32. Print.

Henri van de Velde
Double title page for Ecce Homo, written by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1908. Image source: van de Velde. Nietzsche, Fr., “Ecce homo.” Ketterer Kunst. N.p., 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2011;

Hector Guimard
Entrance to a Paris Métro station, c. 1900
le style métro” — railings, balustrades, and lamp-holders
© photographs by versluis

Perhaps the insights of Phil Meggs can help us understand some of the contributions and historical importance of H. van de Velde as a design educator and P. Behrens who began to move design toward more objective geometric forms.

Although van de Velde became an innovator of Art Nouveau, he was far more interested in furthering the Arts and Crafts philosophy than in innovative style as an end in itself. After the turn of the [twentieth-] century, his teaching and writing (The Renaissance in Modern Applied Art, 1901; A Layman’s Sermons on Applied Art, 1903) became a vital source for the development of twentieth-century architecture and design theory. An example of his pedagogy is his observation that when a shadow is cast, a complementary form is created on the light-struck side of the shadow’s outline, and that this “negative” form is as important as the object casting the shadow. He taught that all branches of art—from painting to graphic design, and from industrial design to sculpture—shared a communal language of form and an equality of importance to the human community. Appropriate materials, functional forms, and a unity of visual organization were demanded. He saw ornament not as decoration but as a means of expression that could achieve the status of art. [1]
  1. Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992. 209. Print.

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