Near the Kelmscott case is another small cabinet that you may want to pull open at once to nose around in, because what you see through the glass looks very promising indeed. This is known as the Nieuwenhuis cabinet and it contains Art Nouveau books in large formats.
This elegant bookcase was made by Theodoor Nieuwenhuis (1866-1951). Since 1898 Nieuwenhuis had been working in the ‘workshop for domestic interior art’ of the Amsterdam art dealer Van Wisselingh & Co. ‘What Nieuwenhuis made’, Ernst Braches was to write later on, ‘was manufactured in the most careful way from excellent materials: it was splendidly executed and therefore invaluable.’
This great precision is evident in all his work: typography, bindings, furniture, wall coverings – as with many of his contemporaries, such as Morris, Nieuwenhuis’ sphere of activity was broad.
Nieuwenhuis called himself a sierkunstenaar [decorative artist] – which at the time, towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, was a new term. At Van Wisselingh & Co. he worked with another well-known decorative artist, the Amsterdam-born C.A. Lion Cachet (1864-1945). Lion Cachet was perhaps an even more versatile artist. A batik maker and wood engraver, he designed posters, wallpaper, tapestries, decorative earthenware, furniture, entire lounges on passenger ships and bank notes. Besides this he also made lithographs and bookbindings which created a sensation in the era of the Art Nouveau.
The Nieuwenhuis cabinet contains nine books for which Lion Cachet designed either the bindings or the illustrations. There are magazines (e.g. De Tuin [The Garden] and De Kunstwereld [The World of Art]) and art books (sometimes portfolios with loose prints) on artists such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Breitner and Jacob Maris. Most of these books were published by Scheltema en Holkema’s Boekhandel. Museum Meermanno also owns further Art Nouveau bindings by Lion Cachet and other decorative artists.
However, this cabinet made by Nieuwenhuis – who during the last fifteen years of his life was forced into idleness owing to blindness – is now only opened on special occasions.