Bart van der Leck (1876 – 1958) was a Dutch artist who founded the De Stijl movement along with Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Discover more about his life, his work and his contribution to modern art history.
- Find out more about the life and work of Bart van der Leck.
- Read how he founded De Stijl after meeting Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg.
- Find out where to see his works on display in Holland.
The life of Bart van der Leck
The son of a house painter, Bart van der Leck was born in Utrecht in 1876. His career began at 14 as an apprentice in a glass workshop and, after eight years spent working in stained glass studios, he went on to study at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam.
In 1913 Van der Leck was introduced to art collector Helene Kröller-Müller, credited with being one of the first to recognise the genius of Vincent van Gogh, and began an important stage of his career working on important commissions for her and her husband, Anton Kröller. This couple’s incredible art collection is now housed in the renowned Kröller-Müller Museum, within which many of Van der Leck’s works are displayed.
Van der Leck moved to the artists’ community of Laren in 1916, where he met Piet Mondrian and began to paint abstract compositions comprising simple, basic shapes in primary colours. In 1917 he co-founded the De Stijl art journal with Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, although he refused to sign the movement’s first manifesto and left the group just one year later. He continued to work on abstract compositions for the rest of his life, finally settling in Blaricum in Noord-Holland, where he died peacefully at his easel two weeks before his 82nd birthday.
Works by Bart van der Leck
As a painter, designer and ceramic artist, Bart van der Leck’s style developed and evolved throughout his long and varied career.
His early, figurative paintings displayed increasingly stylised and flat forms akin to ancient Egyptian art. In this style he worked on many major commissions for Mrs Kröller-Müller and Müller and Co, including shipping posters, mosaics for their London office, typographic designs and colour designs for the Kröller-Müller houses – the most famous example being The Jachthuis St Hubertus (St Hubertus Hunting Lodge), which he worked on in collaboration with the architect H.P. Berlage.
In 1916 Van der Leck moved to Laren, where he completed two of the most important paintings of his entire career: ’The Tempest’ (1916) and ’Work at the docks’. Both paintings show a radical simplification of colour, form and content. It was in Laren that Van der Leck met Piet Mondrian and started to paint entirely abstract compositions comprising simple, basic shapes in the three primary colours on monochrome backgrounds.
In the late 1920s and 1930s Van der Leck found more opportunities to apply his painting to architecture and interiors, and as such his later work includes designs for carpets, textiles and ceramics.
Where to find Bart van der Leck
Much of Bart van der Leck’s work is on display alongside a vast collection of Van Gogh paintings at the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Highlights include ‘The Tempest’ (1916), ’Work at the docks’ (1916) and ‘Composition 1916 no. 4’ (1916).
Also in the Hoge Veluwe National Park, located near the Kröller-Müller Museum, is The Jachthuis Sint Hubertus (St Hubertus Hunting Lodge). One of Van der Leck’s proudest achievements, this impressive building was designed by architect H.P. Berlage with a colour scheme by Van der Leck. The results fully capture his vast appreciation for the combination of painting and architecture.
Other works by Van der Leck, including ‘Composition no. 8’ (1917), can be viewed at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.