GERRIT THOMAS REITVELD

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was born in Utrecht on 24 June 1888 as the son of a joiner. He left school at age 11 as an apprentice to his father. He enrolled at night school before working as a draughtsman for C. J. Begeer, a jeweller in Utrecht, from 1906 to 1911.

Rietveld designed his Red and Blue Chair in 1917. This has become an iconic piece of modern furniture. Rietveld aimed for simplicity in construction. He hoped that his furniture would in time be mass-produced rather than handcrafted. In 1918, he started his own furniture factory. He changed the chair’s colors after becoming influenced by the De Stijl movement. He then became a member of De Stijl in 1919, the same year in which he became an architect. The contacts that he made at De Stijl gave him the opportunity to exhibit abroad as well. In 1923, Walter Gropius invited Rietveld to exhibit at the Bauhaus.

He built the Rietveld Schröder House, in 1924, in collaboration with the owner Truus Schröder-Schräder. Built in Utrecht on the Prins Hendriklaan 50, the house has a conventional ground floor. The top floor is lacking fixed walls and relying on sliding walls to create and change living spaces. The house has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. His involvement in the Schröder House exerted a strong influence on Truus’ daughter, Han Schröder. She became one of the first female architects in the Netherlands.

Rietveld had his first retrospective exhibition at the Central Museum, Utrecht, in 1958. It revolved around his architectural work. In 1968 the Amsterdam Art Academy became part of the higher professional education system. The name became the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. “Gerrit Rietveld: A Centenary Exhibition” at the Barry Friedman Gallery, New York, in 1988 was the first presentation of Reitveld’s works ever held in the U.S. The highlight of a celebratory “Rietveld Year” in Utrecht, the exhibition “Rietveld’s Universe” opened at the Centraal Museum and compared him and his work with famous contemporaries like Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

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