They had been warned in advance that the place would rather be Spartan, bare & austere. This past September, when Dutch artists couple Daniëlle van Ark & Thomas Raat moved into the Van Doesburg’s house nearby Paris, it turned out to be much cosier than expected. Their cat Ari, who came along with them from Amsterdam, increased the feeling of domesticity. Together, they were about to spend four months in the studio-house of one of the major artists from the interwar period. While relaxing from an intense year of work, they immersed themselves into the world of Dutch artists Theo van Doesburg & his wife Nelly van Moorsel, founders of this house turned artistic residency.
Born in 1883, Theo Van Doesburg was a painter, writer & designer who was known as the founder of the De Stijl Art movement (1917-1931) and as the editor-in-chief of the magazine of the same name. He was one of the key figures of the European avant-garde. His wife Nelly Van Moorsel had followed a music education and was known as ‘the indispensable dadaistic musical instrument of Europe’.
When Theo & Nelly moved to Paris in 1923, they stayed at Theo’s De Stijl colleague Piet Mondrian’s place for the first few weeks. These Parisian years were the ones when Theo elaborated his concept of ‘visual architecture’. He strove for a non-hierarchical architecture, free from any ornament, with no distinction between front & back, top & bottom. Thanks to a legacy from Nelly’s father, the couple’s dream of building their own studio-home became reality: they were able to buy a plot in Meudon (suburbs of Paris) where Theo designed a house made of two interlocking cubes – one for the working space, another one for their private quarters.
The house’s white painted facade is all about De Stijl’s touch. Each one of the house’s functional elements – garage door, front door & balcony door – was painted in a different primary colour, respectively yellow, blue and red. Sadly, Theo died tragically in 1931 shortly after the completion of the house at the age of 47.