64-014 zw.jpg

Gerrit Rietveld    ———

Quirky furniture designer. Minimalist. Maker of the famous chair. Brain behind the world-famous Rietveld Schröder House.

And: the man who provided De Stijl with a world-famous icon.

It's no religion that guides me or has guided me.
It's no idealism that drives me.
It's pure egotism, the realisation of one's own existence.”

Rietveld the apprentice   ———

Rietveld was barely 12 years old when he learned how to make furniture in his father's workshop. Or more accurately, how not to make furniture, as far as he was concerned. He could not stand the massive pieces of furniture full of elegant ornamentation and frivolous carvings.
But there was no way around it: he spent every day working in the shop, dreaming of modern furniture, stripped of all whims

 Interior of Drift 17, Utrecht. Furniture and woodwork were made by Rietveld's father's workshop. Gerrit Rietveld was responsible for the paintings above the doors

P.J.C. Klaarhamer   ———

Rietveld seized every spare moment to put his ideas on paper. In the evening, he studied with architect P.J.C. Klaarhamer. 'His work was like his name: plain and powerful', Rietveld later said about his teacher.

Canapé, 1915. Design by Klaarhamer, executed by Rietveld.

de stijl magazine.jpg

Rise of De Stijl   ———

Whilst Rietveld was developing into a versatile artist with a strong vision, the Netherlands was weighed down by the First World War. The neutral Netherlands was cut off from the rest of the world for four years, and that vacuum brought several artists together.


Theo van Doesburg   ———

During the war, visual artist Theo van Doesburg hit on the idea to start his own magazine to propagate an innovative art movement. Called De Stijl, it was firmly rooted in cubism and driven by a strong geometric order.

Theo van Doesburg, study for stained glass composition no. IV, 1917


Robert van ’t Hoff  ———

These ideas were aligned with Rietveld's own views. The architect Robert van ’t Hoff brought him in contact with De Stijl. Rietveld's designs were well suited to Van Doesburg's ideas and artistic movement, and they embarked on a mission to purge art of superfluous elements.


Three dimensions   ———

We must help simplify life, to relieve it of excesses.

Red and blue chair    ———

In 1917, Rietveld opened his own shop, where he threw himself into his contrary designs.


Mechanised manufacture  ———

He made furniture that was simple and abstract and suitable for mechanised manufacture, so that good quality products would be accessible to the general public.

12577 EM_02.jpg

Red and Blue Chair   ———

One of his most famous designs, the Red and Blue Chair, embodies all of Rietveld's ideals. What few people know is that the chair was originally unpainted. Rietveld added the signature red, blue, yellow and black in 1923.

Rietveld Schröder House   ———

Later on, Rietveld applied these principles to architecture, too. Truus Schröder commissioned him to design what would become his most famous house. Today, the Rietveld Schröder House is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. De Stijl is expressed in almost every aspect: the design is plain, with an abundance of right angles, anti-decorative and functional.

International exhibitions    ———

For the general public, this powerful break from the existing architecture took some getting used to. Like his architectural designs, Rietveld’s chairs likewise were not an immediate success. Indeed, the value of Rietveld's work and De Stijl were not recognised until the 1950s – thanks in part to exhibitions in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. De Stijl has left a lasting legacy, not only in the arts but also in everyday life.


Rietveld  ———

“Restriction is not an impoverishment; on the contrary, it is the only and most human way to experience reality.”

Discover Rietveld and De Stijl at the Centraal Museum   ———

The Centraal Museum has the largest Rietveld collection in the world:
-a house
-300 items of furniture and scale models
-7,000 files

Day out in Utrecht? Combine your visit to the Centraal Museum with one of the most famous attractions in Utrecht: The Rietveld Schröder House. Want to see Rietveld's furniture for yourself?

Discover more stories online and in the museum

Plan your visitStories