TH. VAN DOESBURG, 1921-1922, Torenstraat/Houtlaan, Drachten
Woningbouw Papegaaienbuurt / Housing Papegaaienbuurt ( Th. van Doesburg )
© 2006 Arthur Blonk

Theo van Doesburg

Cees de Boer

Monumental art

Rijkslandbouwwinterschool (Agricultural School)

When the First World War began, Theo van Doesburg was mobilizedin the province of Noord-Brabant. There he made the acquaintance of the poet-philosopher Antony Kok from Tilburg and the shoemaker Evert Rinsema from Drachten, and remained friends with them all his life. Evert Rinsema (1880-1958) was a poet and cultural philosopher in his spare time; his brother Thijs (1877-1947) painted and made Dadaist collages. In September 1920, the Rinsema's introduced Van Doesburg to Drachten’s municipal architect, Cees de Boer (1881-1966). De Boer’s block of traditional middle class houses were
given abstract colour schemes by Van Doesburg. Not only did he attend to the colours of the exterior, the interior was also prescribed by Van Doesburg: ‘Naturally I’ve thought long and hard about the placement, colour and proportions of carpets, about the furniture and the colour of curtains, but as a rule the occupants have their own ideas. Not that we’ve reached that stage.’ Even the gardens in Drachten were planted in accordance with De Stijl principles, with Kok evidently in attendance as the expert. ‘My dear Kok! As Does is engaged on organizing gardens (for Drachten) he would dearly like to have a list of names of red, yellow and white flowers and in roughly which period they flower. Could you please send this as soon as possible?’ (Letter from Nelly van Doesburg to Antony Kok dated 25 October 1921.)
A mere two years after it had been completed, the neighbourhood, by then known derisively as the ‘parrot district’, was painted over; in 1988, it was honourably restored to its original colours. Torenstraat 3 has been fitted out as a museum house (Van Doesburg-Rinsemahuis). At Museumplein 2 is the local art museum (Museum Dr8888) with a major collection of De Stijl and Dadaist artworks, including several design drawings and a stained glass window, probably the work of Thijs Rinsema, from the house of his brother Evert at Burgemeester Wuiteweg 77. De Stijl mania hit Drachten with a vengeance in the early 1920s, with stained glass windows everywhere and farms painted in fresh colours. Van Doesburg feared his ideas would be exploited for commercial ends: ‘You see my windows imitated everywhere, especially in Germany.’