Dutch architect and furniture designer, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was a leading figure of the movement known as De Stijl. Further, his simple shapes, vibrant colors, and geometric pieces are still synonymous with De Stijl and its aesthetic.
About His Life
On June 24, 1888, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was born in Utrecht, where he would spend most of his life. In his early life, he trained as a cabinetmaker under his father between 1899 and 1906. Later, he studied as a jewelry designer in the studio of C. J. Begeer from 1906 to 1911. Then, Rietveld’s career as an independent architect began in 1919, the same year as his entrance in the De Stijl movement, which advocates for geometric abstractism as a means towards harmony and balance. In 1921, he began a period of collaboration with the designer and Dutch socialite Truus Schröder-Schräde, and they created the Rietveld Schröder House. By the 1930s, Rietveld’s fame seemed to have passed, but with renewed interest in De Stijl due to production following World War II, he began receiving important commissions once more. Rietveld died on June 25, 1964, in Utrecht.
Focused mainly in Holland, his architectural accomplishments include an Amsterdam jewelry shop (1921), the Row Houses at Utrecht (1931-34), the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennial (1954), the Sculpture Pavilion in the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller at Otterloo, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (1955) and, most importantly, the Schröder House at Utrecht (1924). Additionally, the last structure is currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To further elaborate on the latter, the house is a family-sized habitation, built to emphasize a geometric balance between the individual shapes. In addition, it is a flexible interior spatial arrangement with an unconventional yet fresh approach to architecture that is an icon of Modern architecture.
Additionally, he designed the Red and Blue Chair (1918-1923), which looks almost like a tridimensional version of a Piet Mondrian painting, the Schröder 1 (1923), the Zig Zag Chair (1934) and the Utrecht (1935).
Most of his works encapsulate the De Stijl principles. Rietveld adopted what he perceived to be a purer form of geometry, consisting of straight lines and basic geometric shapes, largely rendered in the three primary colors, as well as black and white. Further, he embraced an abstract, stripped-down, yet elegant aesthetic. Partly a reaction to the excess of Art Deco, the reduced quality of De Stijl art, envisioned by its creators as a universal visual language, is aimed towards a perfect balance between art and life.