Identity Pieces

Works by Gerrit Rietveld from the
Collection of Michael and Gabrielle Boyd

As an art student at the University of California in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Michael Boyd created geometric abstract paintings that alluded to the compositions of great non-objective painters like Mondrian and Malevich, only to be struck by how difficult it was to achieve a minimal work without superfluous ornamentation. The “art of reduction,” as Boyd describes it, was more complicated than it seemed, and has enthralled the collector for years.

To Boyd, Rietveld’s oeuvre represents a purity of form, concentrated vigor with timeless appeal.

The same notion is what first appealed to Boyd in the work of Gerrit Rietveld, which he describes as “three-dimensional Mondrian”. A self-proclaimed fanatic for the Dutch master, Boyd’s selection of works by Rietveld (the cornerstone of his collection) speaks to his sensibilities on a personal level, “I’m captivated with the early or proto-modernism in that hand-built art and objects were meant to look like they were machine-made…on one level the objects have a hand-wrought folk art sensibility and on another level the pieces represent the struggle to get to a universal place without ego”.

To Boyd, Rietveld’s oeuvre represents a purity of form, concentrated vigor with timeless appeal. These are the qualities that drive his passion for collecting and inspire his own creative output. The exceptional works offered here are identity pieces for both Rietveld and Boyd, embodiments of ambition captured in singular designs, encapsulating the philosophy of both their creator and their devotee.

The Harrenstein-Schräder Commission

Dr. Rein Harrenstein, c. 1930



In 1926, Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schröder-Schräder were commissioned to design the renovation of the Harrenstein-Schräder residence. Dr. Rein Harrenstein, an accomplished pediatrician, was married to Schröder-Schräder’s sister, An. The couple had an extensive circle of friends including artists and designers, and it was fitting for Rietveld and Schröder-Schräder to take on the project, designing the living room and bedroom of the couple’s Amsterdam home and later, a guest room and Dr. Harrenstein’s surgery, office and waiting room where the present lot would have been utilized.

In 1971, when the home and adjacent offices were demolished, the bedroom was bought in its entirety by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam where it can be viewed today.

Gerrit Rietveld 1888–1964

Gerrit Rietveld was a celebrated designer and architect, famous for bringing the principles of the De Stijl Movement to these disciplines. Rietveld was born in 1888 in Utrecht, Netherlands to a family of cabinetmakers and later studied drafting and architecture. Rietveld opened his own furniture studio in 1917 and soon after became involved with the De Stijl Movement. In 1918, he designed his now-famous Red Blue armchair, which was heralded as a distillation of the movement’s emphasis on geometry, primary colors and an objective language of forms. He regarded this chair, and others he would design, as “spatial creations,” rather than simply furniture. The Schröder House in Utrecht, designed by Rietveld in 1924, is regarded as the architectural embodiment of the ideals of De Stijl and his most important work. In 1928, Rietveld distanced himself from De Stijl and became concerned with the challenges of affordable housing. He was a visionary in designing prefabricated and standardized buildings, of which the architectural world would not consider more seriously until the 1950s. In the 1930s and 1940s, Rietveld largely worked on private commissions and designed enduring modernist icons such as the Crate chair and Zig Zag chair, both from 1934. His last major work before his death in 1964 was the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which was completed in 1973.

Auction Results Gerrit Rietveld