Design.nl: Two Dutch Musea Acquire Rietveld Baby Chair

The Future Dutch Finance Minister Witteveen in the kids chair Rietveld made for him

By Editor Design.nl / 04-12-2008

The Centraal Museum in Utrecht and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam have jointly acquired the Gerrit Rietveld child-chair designed in 1918 and produced in 1921-22. The piece makes it possible to track Rietveld’s development towards the Red Blue Chair, an icon in Dutch art history, much more closely.

Gerrit Rietveld (Utrecht 1888-1964) is one of the major innovators of 20th century architecture and design. This child-seat is considered a key element in his oeuvre. Its shape and colour scheme precede the famous Red Blue Chair, which was also designed in 1918, but not painted in the well-known colours until 1923.

In 1919, Magazine De Stijl published the design of the child-seat. Rietveld gave an explanation of the colour-scheme (at the time green, light green and red) and the special construction qualities focussing on the experimental wood connections and dowels. He designed the featured seat for the first child of H.J. Schelling who was born in 1918. That chair is now lost.

No other furniture from this crucial period in Rietveld’s development was known to still exist. Then in 2006, a second child-seat appeared at an auction. This chair was made for Hendrikus Johannes Witteveen, the future minister of Finance who was born in 1921. It is almost identical to the chair owned by the Schelling family. Only one picture of the chair, showing Witteveen as a child sitting in it, survives.

Considering the date of 1921, the seat gives us essential information about the development of Rietveld’s use of colour in that period. He was experimenting with primary colours, which is of great importance for research into his early development. Few works from that period can be dated with such precision.

As far as it is known, this child-seat is the only piece of furniture left from this important period. During this time he lets go of the simple, closed shapes of his early works which were inspired by among others Frank Lloyd Wright and Berlage. Spatial quality becomes the essence of his revolutionary designs where he effortlessly connects to the avant-garde movement, De Stijl.

The chair is on display from today in the “125 Great Loves” exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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