Hollandse Renaissance als bron van de Nieuwe Kunst
Although S.T. Malden in his Sources of Art Nouveau excludes Dutch Renaissance style in the 19th century as source of Dutch Art Nouveau, J.M. Jacobus and L. Gans, rightly pointed out that Art Nouveau encloses rationalism as well as the decorative, picturesque style. By P.H.J. Cuypers and H.P. Berlage's orientation on the rationalist E.E. Viollet-le-Duc and their application of the Dutch Renaissance the question can be asked if the 'picturesque Dutch Renaissance' can strictly be separated from Amsterdam rationalism.
This article tries to mark the development of Dutch 19th century architecture as 'organic' unity by analysis of designs of Berlage and his less well-known colleague G. van Arkel. The stylistic progress of Van Arkel's architectural career strongly resembles Berlage's, but at his application of Dutch Renaissance (with Isaac Gosschalk as predecessor) and from 1894 following Berlage, his work distinguishes by great picturesqueness and originality. After visiting a congress at Brussels (1897) also Belgian Art Nouveau motifs can be recognized in his oeuvre.
Already indication of the long for a new Dutch 19th century architecture is the foundation of the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Bouwkunst (1842). The picturesque eclectic designs of her members still did not lay the basis for Art Nouveau, but Neo Gothic rationalism as represented by P.J.H. Cuypers and Dutch Renaissance with l. Gosschalk on the other hand. Both styles unite the three foreign architectural traditions, which have been highly influential in 19th century Holland: the Renaissance minded Schinkel School, French rationalism and the British picturesque tradition.
Picturesqueness dominates in the Dutch Renaissance building of the 1870's, mingled with other Renaissance styles. Bricks and details are used as painting-like means and the frequently placed stepped gables and towers match the phantasies on townscape paintings. Although studies of 16th and 17th century Dutch Renaissance increase during the eighties and the application of this style was considered essential to accomplish the New Architecture her picturesque quality was still valued more than her rational characteristics.
Placed on Renaissance buildings ornament in the 1890's first abandons tradition by stylizing and reducing flora and fauna following English Proto-Art Nouveau principles. Architects search for fresh inspiration in the stylized qualities of the English decorative arts, but also in the fluent lines of French (Post) Impressionism, introduced from Brussels by symbolist artists. Also technical renovations, the expansive growth of cities and increasing interest in Cuypers' rationalism influenced the development of Dutch Art Nouveau. H. P. Berlage's early designs are substantially Dutch Renaissance while his theoretical background, like Isaac Gosschalk's, was determined by German Renaissance tradition and French rationalism.
Gosschalk denying rational values at the Gothic style, Berlage's opinion is more like Cuypers' comparing the constructive character of both Gothic and Renaissance architecture. In a sense repeating his article 'Retrospectieve Kunst' (1884) his speech 'Bouwkunst en Impressionisme' marks an important point in his career, attacking abundant picturesqueness in contemporary architecture. He asked for a return to the sobriety of the 'Old Masters', to compare with the simplicity and fluent line movement of modern painting and decorative arts.
It could be this same stylizing in the plastic arts, that inspired Berlage at the strong reduction of Gothic and Renaissance form language at his 'Algemeene' (1893) in the best Cuypers' tradition. Repeating the traditional facade-structure of Gebouw Mercurius the building again unites the three foreign traditions, which controlled Dutch 19th century architecture. Historical quotations as its corner solution point to the Dutch Renaissance of the previous period. Extreme picturesque qualities as projecting parts and a broken silhouette, applied anew at his later insurance buildings, belong to the same picturesque tradition, perfectly balancing rational elevation and placement of ornament after Viollet-le-Duc. New materials and ornament excluded, these buildings belong to rationalism as started by Cuypers and Gosschalk ca. 1860, only reducing previous form, reduction besides connecting Berlage's own oeuvre.
An excellent drawer himself, G. van Arkel's buildings represent a great receptivity for contemporary trends. The Renaissance scheme only joins Dutch Renaissance houses and simplified Art Nouveau designs, the latter partly inspired by Berlage's 'Algemeene'. The eclectic working up of Dutch, Italian and French Renaissance style at Nieuwendijk 89 could easily compete with very picturesque examples of l. Gosschalk's oeuvre, while Dutch Renaissance Kalverstraat 190 still strikes by the rich and original application of 16th century motifs. Probably Belgian inspired change of materials at Gebouw Helios coincides with Berlagian motifs and a picturesque flowing roofline with 'synthetic' quality. Traditional ornament has been replaced by English Proto-Art Nouveau models. Next to Berlagian and Belgian quotations Spuistraat 274 seems to be derived from the fluent lines of Dutch symbolist art or even French 'Balnéal'.
Directly adopting materials and form from Berlage's insurance buildings Van Arkel becomes real 'Berlagian' only after the turn of the century. Both Rokin 69 and Damrak 80-81 wonderfully balance picturesque, renaissance and rational tradition. Analyzing his work it is picturesqueness or originality, which not only connects his early buildings with Art Nouveau, but also with designs of l. Gosschalk and members of the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Bouwkunst, who estimated picturesqueness above rationalism. This way Van Arkel's oeuvre belongs fully to the 19th century.