Willy Kessels Photomontage for a Development of the Left Bank of Antwerp
Medium Silver print
Photo Date 1926 Print Date 1926
Dimensions 3-7/8 x 11-15/16 in. (98 x 303 mm)
Photo Country Belgium
Photographer Country Belgium
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
This is a very rare and important architectural photomontage made by Willy Kessels for Henry Van de Velde, the noted architect. It combines a real photo of the view of the left bank of the Escaut river with a drawing by Van de Velde to show what the Antwerp project would look like upon completion (even though it was never approved). See: Ploegaerts and Puttemans, Le Oeuvre Architectural de Henry Van de Velde, pp.187-188. Or click here: http://books.google.com/books?id=0nzgO6nddBcC&lpg=PA188&ots=1I90LDKvUy&dq=projet%20rive%20droit%20par%20Kessels%20pour%20VandeVelde%2BAntwerp%2Bphotomontage&pg=PA187#v=onepage&q&f=false .
Henry Clemens Van de Velde (April 3, 1863, Antwerp-October 15, 1957, Zürich) was a Belgian Flemish painter, architect and interior designer. Together with Victor Horta and Paul Hankar he could be considered one of the main founders and representatives of Art Nouveau in Belgium. Van de Velde spent the most important part of his career in Germany and had a decisive influence on German architecture and design at the beginning of the 20th century.
Van de Velde studied painting in Antwerp and Paris. He painted in neo-impressionist style; in 1889 he became a member of the Brussels-based artist group "Les Vingt".
From 1892, he abandoned painting and devoted himself to decoration and architecture. His own house, Bloemenwerf in Uccle, was inspired by the English arts and crafts movement. He also designed interiors and furniture for the influential exhibition "Art Nouveau", organized by Samuel Bing in Paris in 1895. Van de Velde was one of the first architects and furniture designers who worked in the abstract style with curved lines that would become characteristic for the Art Nouveau.
Around the turn of the century, Van de Velde designed a number of buildings in Germany, including the Folkwang Museum in Hagen. He also became the founder of the Kunstgewerbeschule and art academy in Weimar, the predecessor of the Bauhaus that would be developed further by Walter Gropius. Furthermore, Van de Velde was closely related to the Deutscher Werkbund.
During World War I, he lived in Switzerland and in the Netherlands, where he designed the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. From 1926 to 1936, Van de Velde was professor at Ghent University, where he became the architect of the university library (the so-called Boekentoren or Book Tower).
Willy Kessels (1898-1974) was one of the leading Belgian photographers in the period between the two World Wars and an important Belgian Modernist. Born in Termonde, Belgium, in East Flanders, he studied architecture in Ghent, starting work as an architect in 1919. After completing the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Gent, he went to Brussels and during the 1920s worked there as a sculptor and architectural draftsman. He met Le Corbusier in 1928. In 1926 he became interested in photography and three years later, in 1929, became a professional photographer.
His training as an architect made him a fine architectural photographer, and he made portraits of the leading Belgian architects of the century, notably Victor Bourgeois and Henri Van de Velde. His photographs for the 1931 book Découverte de Bruxelles by Albert Guislain showed the city from a non-traditional approach
His work, which covered a variety of fields, reflected the avant-garde, European modernism of the period.
In 1932 he exhibited at the first Internationale de la Photographie at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, alongside photographers such as Man Ray, André Kertész and Germaine Krull. Much of his personal work was in photographing the nude.
As well as his excellent work in the field of advertising, Kessels also produced social reportage. In 1933 he accompanied film-makers Joris Ivens and Henri Storck while they were shooting Misère au Borinage, a stark, ground-breaking documentary depicting the misery of workers in one of Belgium's coal-mining areas after a strike. Despite the humanist, if not socialist, point of view of these photographs, and although he was a leading modernist and progressive in photography and design, at least from the mid-1930's Kessels was involved with the extreme right in politics, so much so that at the end of the Second World War, he was condemned for collaboration with the Nazis.
After the war he became less active in photography. One project on which he worked concentrated on the Escault valley of Flanders and its population, while another featured a series of experimental images under the title Spatial, possibly influenced by the work of Otto Steinert and the Subjective Photography movement.
Willy Kessels died in Brussels in 1974.
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