At The Hague’s Museum Meermanno, a small exhibition shows the influence of the English Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau on Dutch book designs. This exhibition is about books as aesthetic objects and works of art; not mass-produced pockets printed on cheap paper.
Apart from its permanent collection, the oldest book museum in the world contains several small exhibitions. ‘Exquisite Bindings’ is located at the museum’s ground floor. The first room explains what inspired the Arts and Craft Movement. Craftsmanship and Art Nouveau ensured designers created unique book bindings, covers, illustrations, types.
Nature, as well as traditional crafts like Indonesian Batik inspired artists like Jan Toorop. Examples of his works are displayed in this room. Here are also books designed, printed and published by William Morris and his Kelmscott Press.
In the following rooms, the exhibition focuses on three Dutch designers. Between 1980 – 1910, these pioneers not only created unique books. They also designed furniture for the Amsterdam firm E.J. van Wisselingh & Co. A few examples designed for Dutch royalty are part of this exhibition.
The three designers are Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof (1866-1924), Carel Adolph Cachet (1864-1945) and Theo Nieuwenhuis (1866-1951). All three worked as book binding designers though they also used their talents to create wallpaper, bank notes, complete interiors, pottery, carpets and much more. Nieuwenhuis used an ornate style, designing calendars as well as book covers. Several examples of his calendar designs are displayed.
Lion Cachet, who added Lion to his last name, experimented with for instance batik techniques on vellum. The exhibition contains several examples of book covers for which he used this special technique. He also hand-coloured books, as other examples show. Of the three artists-designers, he seems to have been the most versatile.
As paper is easily damaged by light, the exhibition rooms may be slightly darker than in other museums. Moreover, throughout this exhibition, all texts are in Dutch only.
The exhibition contains objects from the museum’s extensive collection, as well as from the collections of the Dutch Royal Library and University of Leiden. Lectures and other activities accompany this exhibition which runs till 23rd of June.
Kate visited Museum Meermanno – Huis van het Boek on behalf of The Hague Online
Photo: Museum Meermanno