Willem Hendrik Gispen

Willem Hendrik Gispen (1890-1981), entrepreneur, designer, critic. During the Second World War, Gispen produced for the Wehrmacht, yet he was also arrested because of the protest against the Chamber of Culture. Gispen had become chairman of the Association for Art and Industry (BKI) in 1940, and in his articles and lectures he repeatedly advocated the beauty of the industrial product and the use of designers. Gispen was asked by the government to join the Commission for industrial design, which gave advice on policies relating to industrial design after the Second World War. In addition, he was involved in the Bureau for Aesthetic Advice (Bureau voor Aesthetische Adviezen) and in Goed Wonen (‘Quality Living’). From 1948 to 1956, he was editor of the magazine Goed Wonen and of the booklet Schoonheid van industriële producten (‘The beauty of industrial products’) during 1948. In Goed Wonen he commented on kitsch and together with others he organised an exhibition on this topic at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in 1952. He had left the Gispen company as a designer in 1949 and he started his own office, followed by his new firm, Kembo, in 1953. He mostly designed furniture, also for other producers, and lamps, which were often based on foreign examples, e.g. from Scandinavia and Italy, and on the work of the American designer Charles Eames. Between 1951 and 1957, he wrote many commentaries for Elseviers Weekblad (‘Elsevier Weekly’) in which he emphasised the education of taste and aesthetic education of young people, propagated the employment of designers by companies and spoke out against kitsch and styling. Nevertheless, he also advocated more expensive, avant-garde furniture and the representation.
Gispen taught industrial design at the Academy of Art in The Hague, and he was a member of the Fine Arts and Architecture section, and he was part of the provisional Council for the Arts from 1945 to 1956. He furnished buildings and retirement homes and built houses in Spain in the 1960s.

The Dutch version of this biography is taken from the book Visies op vormgeving, het Nederlandse ontwerpen in teksten deel 2: 1940-2000 (2008) by Frederike Huygen. The following source has been used for this biography:
– Koch, A. ‘Industrieel ontwerper W.H. Gispen (1890-1981), een modern eclecticus’, Rotterdam 1988 (2nd. ed. 1998).