In the spring of 2018, the Museum Prinsenhof Delft will organise a retrospective exhibition of the applied arts in Delft from the period 1880 to 1940. In the history books, this is sometimes referred to as the Second Dutch Golden Age. Thanks to industrialisation, the Netherlands could once again count itself one of the most prosperous countries in the world, as it had in the 17th century. Economic progress brought with it a flourishing of the arts. Painters of The Hague School made their appearance and in Amsterdam, the Tachtigers, or the Movement of 1880, created quite a stir among the established order. New modes of transport had made travel easier, moreover, and Dutch artists were much more quickly aware of artistic developments abroad. Art Nouveau in France was translated into Nieuwe Kunst, or ‘New Art’, in the Netherlands. Besides the capital Amsterdam and the seat of government The Hague, Delft in particular became the focus of Dutch Art Nouveau. Other national and international schools, like Art Deco, De Stijl and New Objectivity, subsequently made their appearance in Delft as well. The miraculous transformation, around 1900, of a relatively small provincial city into an important centre of fine and applied arts and industrial design, is the central theme of this exhibition.
As well as presenting the most beautiful objects from the Museum Prinsenhof Delft's own collection, extraordinary objects on loan from major Dutch national collections such as the Rijksmuseum, the Gemeentemuseum The Hague and the Drents Museum, will also be on display. The Gemeentemuseum will concurrently organise an exhibition featuring Art Nouveau in The Hague. In 2018, then, visitors will have a unique opportunity to gain a very rich impression of this Second Golden Age of the Dutch arts.
The exhibition as an expression of museum policy
The exhibition Art Nouveau | New Objectivity | Delft demonstrates that this important and innovative period in the cultural history of Delft is also of national and international significance. This Delft urge for innovation represents an important guiding principle in the Museum Prinsenhof Delft programming. It has previously resulted in the highly successful exhibitions of the work of modern Delft masters like Jan Schoonhoven (2015-2016) and Theo Jansen (2016-2017).
The exhibition concept
The keywords of the exhibition are: Delft, innovation, industry, entrepreneurs, applied arts, icons, education, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, De Stijl, New Objectivity, design.
The fundamental question answered in the exhibition is: how was it possible for Delft to play such an essential role in the domain of the applied arts in the period 1880 to 1940?
This exhibition is exceptional because for the first time in Delft it provides a retrospective overview of the (applied) arts created during one of the most important periods in the history of the city, on the basis of a large variety of objects. To a greater extent than in other Dutch cities, the production of art in Delft between 1880 and 1940 distinguishes itself by a synergy between art and industry. Unlike in Amsterdam or The Hague, in Delft it was mainly companies creating art, not individual artists, that left a mark. The presentation of many different types of objects, like paintings, posters, ceramics and stained glass, will make this a visually rich exhibition, appealing to a wide public.
The exhibition shows how the flourishing of Delft art between 1880 and 1940 resulted from a unique synergy among three important parties in the city: the applied arts, industry and education. Each of these three parties defines a theme and the combination of the three forms the basic concept of the exhibition. For each theme, a trio of principal characters and/or companies has been chosen, each with its own story to tell. The themes are illustrated below.
The Industry Theme: Delft entrepreneurs and patrons
Jacques van Marken (1845-1906) – Hugo Tutein Nolthenius (1863-1944) – Cornelis von Lindern (1869-1945)
Modern industry arrived in Delft with the progressive entrepreneur Jacques van Marken. Van Marken graduated from the Polytechnic School in Delft. In 1869 he founded the Dutch Yeast and Methylated Spirits Factory and in 1883, the Netherlands Oil Factory (NOF). Both businesses grew to become extremely successful Delft companies. Van Marken involved influential artists in his companies. He commissioned posters and advertising material from Jan Toorop and Theo van Hoytema. Toorop’s so-called Salad Oil Poster of 1894 is now regarded as an icon and even earned Dutch Art Nouveau the nickname ‘salad-oil style.’ Delft industry gave the artistic climate in the city an important impulse. Hugo Tutein Nolthenius also studied at the Technical College (the successor of the Polytechnic School), just as Van Marken had, and became the manager of the Netherlands Oil Factory NOF (known, since 1898, as Calvé-Delft). He too commissioned artists to design advertising material and had Bart van Leck develop a salad oil poster. Tutein Noltenius also commissioned work from artists and designers in his private life. In that way, he built up an important art collection and had his home on the Nieuwe Plantage decorated with interior designs by the avant-garde artist Vilmos Huszár and stained-glass windows by Johan Thorn Prikker and Harm Kamerlingh Onnes.
In 1913, Cornelis von Lindern established the Dutch Cable Factory in Delft. Graphic designer Piet Zwart, who trained at the Technical College, was commissioned to create posters and advertising material starting in 1923. Zwart is considered to be a pioneer in the field of typography and his work can be found in major museums like the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The Education Theme: The Polytechnic School as inspiration for art and industry
Adolf le Comte (1850-1921) – Bram Gips (1861-1943) – Karel Sluyterman (1863-1931)
The Dutch economy received an enormous impulse from the increase in trade and industrialisation in the nineteenth century. A rail system was created, canals and roads were expanded and above all, buildings were constructed (stations, office premises, factories etc.). This activity generated a pressing need for skilled technicians and architects. In 1842, King William II opened the Royal Academy in Delft. In 1863, it was replaced with the Polytechnic School. Students studied civil engineering there, but could also get teaching certificates in drawing or modelling. Generations of students, including important artists like Jan Toorop and George Hendrik Breitner, and many industrialists, such as Jacques van Marken and Abel Labouchere, were educated there. The importance of the Polytechnic School and its successors, the Technical College and the Technical University (TU), for Delft cannot readily be overstated. The school served as a booster for both art and industry within Delft and outside of it and in doing so has established a lasting reputation for Delft as a city of innovation.
Among the most influential instructors at the Polytechnic School were Adolf le Comte, his successor Bram Gips and professor of architecture Karel Sluyterman. They were closely involved in artistic developments and projects in the city and in their turn, educated artists who played a similarly important role in artistic life.
TheApplied Art Theme: Delft companies, between art and commerce
De Porceleyne Fles – Studio ‘t Prinsenhof – Braat Company
The presence of industry and the Polytechnic School in Delft gave applied arts in the city an important impulse. Under the artistic guidance of the Polytechnic School instructor Adolf le Comte, for example, the last remaining pottery factory in Delft, De Porceleyne Fles (the porcelain bottle), developed spectacular new forms, decorations and glazes that won high praise at the world exhibition in Paris in 1900. In 1889, Polytechnic School student Jan Schouten established Studio ’t Prinsenhof, which was devoted to manufacturing stained-glass objects that found ready buyers in the Netherlands and abroad. The Peace Palace in The Hague, which opened in 1913, is something of a Delft Gesamtkunstwerk - a total work of art. The Porceleyne Fles provided ceramic building materials and Studio ’t Prinsenhof, stained-glass windows; Polytechnic School instructor Abraham Gips designed the ceilings and the Delft Braat Company, objects in wrought iron. The latter was founded by Frederik Willem Braat (1822-1889) and specialised in ornamental ironwork, window frames, heating systems and galvanised metals. Together, these companies put Delft on the map through a combination of innovation, craftsmanship and aesthetics.
Link with the present
Industry and art are inextricably bound to each other in Delft. By means of various influences from Delft companies, art in Delft has been able to renew itself time and again – throughout the ages. The production of art in Delft between 1880 and 1940 in particular counts as one of the richest chapters in the history of the city.
The exhibition explores the extent to which there is still a special interaction between artists and companies in Delft that leads to a creative and innovative collaboration of national and international significance. Activities for visitors to the exhibition correspond to this.
Around 1900, Delft, besides Amsterdam and The Hague, emerged as an important centre of Dutch Art Nouveau. A special cooperative relationship has existed in Delft among art, knowledge and industry. The interaction between artists and companies and the former Polytechnic School is fundamental to that success. The association among these three sectors is unique and is referred to as the ‘Delft miracle.’
In terms of art, the period 1880 and 1940 is considered to be one of the most innovative and colourful chapters in the history of Delft. The art produced in Delft during this period was of national and international significance.
For the first time, the Museum Prinsenhof Delft will cast light on this important period in the city's art history. The selected objects have never before been exhibited together, with their link to industry clearly evident. The exhibition shows important objects from the museum’s own collection, enriched with many interesting others on loan from major national museums and private collections.
The large diversity of special objects, such as paintings, posters, ceramics and stained glass, makes the exhibition very rich and appealing to a wide public. The various target groups among the general public will be approached by means of educational tools and additional programming in a variety of ways. This exhibition will also address potential new visitors and is suitable to attract younger visitors.
Activities such as a symposium and a major event involving creative industry in present-day Delft will contribute to an exchange of knowledge and new ideas. The city will be closely engaged in this high-profile exhibition.
The last time attention was paid to this period of extraordinary flourishing in Delft in the areas of technical innovation, education and art was in 2002, despite the fact that Delft is still seen as a leader in technology and modern design. Many creative companies are based in Delft and the Technical University Delft is a leading educational institution in the area of product innovation. It is precisely this combination that is attractive to the trade and industry that has gathered around the university campus and in the city. It is time to bring this power of Delft and the exceptional history associated with it to the fore. Moreover, it fits with the various themes of the museum, where the focus is on quality, authenticity, collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit.