|Theo van Doesburg tried from 1915 to 1917 to bring in new members for
an alliance of Dutch artists. The purpose of the alliance was to stand
up as a group instead of standing up as individual artists. In 1917 the
first number of the magazine 'The Style' was launched. The idea for this
magazine came from Theo van Doesburg. It was meant for explaining his own
work as well as the work of the other members of the alliance. For them
the magazine was an instrument to discuss new modern art and to spread
their own ideas. Still there are several points of view about the origin
of The Style. If we look at the date of foundation, the first World
War, we can point out the endeavor of the society as base of the origin.
At that time it was very chaotic in Holland. The people wanted peace, rest
and harmony again. The members of The Style tried to reflect in their work
what in the entire social development could not be achieved, The Ideal
Harmony If we look at the former art periods, The Style seems a logical
outcome of the Cubist period (1907- 1914). The Cubist artists tried
to order the reality. The result of ordering the reality often looks like
a harmonious totality. The cubists however, still used identifiable figures
and elements in their paintings; their paintings were still telling something.
The Style carried the principal of ordering the reality through, by ordering
the reality even further. The paintings made by members of The Style do
not show identifiable figures at all. These paintings have a non-telling
character, but are still understandable and reflecting something. The Style
did not restrict itself to the art of painting. The members wanted to realize
the principals of The Style in many different artistic areas, such as architecture,
sculpture, design, etc.
Theo van Doesburg actually wanted to call the magazine 'The Straight Line', but influenced by the other members the name became 'The Style' after all. The members thought that the word 'Style', preceded by the the word 'The' , suggests that it is the best, possibly even the only style, usable in the modern art and society.
The principals of The Style;
The Style went back to the fundamental elements of the art: color and form, level and line. With these elements the artist developed new sculptural language and with that the placed the ideal world opposite the reality. Most of the artist used closed and open forms, density and space, color and form. By using these elements within one painting, the ideal harmony could be reached. All elements have their own function in the totality.
The lines are the borders and make the open or closed forms. The
lines are also used to create a certain space. The border of the painting
is not the end of the painting. We can use our fantasy to fill in the rest;
to let it grow as big as we want, as big as we can imagine.
By using only the primary colors, the artist could create a 3-dimensional
effect. The colors attract immediate attention. Therefor the rest of the
painting seems to go to the background. It looks like the white forms
are further back than the colored forms. That is how the artists created
a front and a back in their paintings, witch is held in harmony because
of the use of
Piet Mondrian. Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1, 1918
Oil on canvas 49 x 60.5 cm (19 1/4 x 23 7/8 in) Private collection
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
|Form: Oil on canvas, geometric forms and shades of mostly
the primary colors
Iconography: Eliminating the real and visible from his paintings, he
extracted pure form and color from the objective world. His aesthetic philosophy
is, unsurprisingly, as distilled as his paintings: "What do I want to express
with my work? Nothing else than that which every other artist seeks: to
achieve harmony through the balance of the relationships between lines,
colors, and planes. But only in the clearest and strongest way." Mondrian
never viewed the black lines as edges: they weren't meant to contain the
colors, since doing so would create foreground and background and thus
interfere with the total unity of the work. Instead, the lines moved through
the rectangles of color while remaining independent of them. Overtly basic
compositions of color and line, these paintings emphasize the dynamic interaction
of the essential elements of form and color.
Context: According to www.artandculture.com,"The members of the De Stijl movement were pious, self-effacing artists bent on creating pure and accessible art. Although the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian did not himself organize the groups with which he is associated -- De Stijl, Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square), and Abstraction-Création -- his participation was essential to the growth of abstraction.
Early in his career Mondrian worked in the naturalist style, but moved
slowly toward innovations in color and abstraction. From the Impressionist
and Pointillist-style landscapes and still lifes, composed around 1906,
Mondrian’s aesthetic quickly evolved into free, Fauvist-style landscapes.
A 1909 Amsterdam exhibition of these raw landscapes was fiercely criticized,
but Mondrian continued to develop his style with an eye toward innovation.
By 1911, he had moved to Paris and launched himself into Cubism.
Van Doesburg and Mondrian were the theoretical engines behind De Stijl, whose artists strove for anonymity and envisioned a collective art. For Mondrian, the tensions between modern technology and individuality were more a matter of perception than reality, and he believed that the move from the particular to the abstract was the way to bring together these two apparent opposites. Mondrian composed his first plus-minus compositions -- paintings with rhythmic horizontal and vertical lines -- in 1917, and by 1918 he had created his first geometric grid works. But it was not until 1920, after the publication of his treatise "Le Neo Plasticisme" (Neo-Plasticism), that he composed the first heavily black-outlined colored rectangles. In 1921, Mondrian further reduced his palette to three pure primary colors plus black, white, and gray. After his 1940 emigration to New York, the painter made his final stylistic refinement, changing to a framework of black lines replaced by colored lines and rows of small colorful rectangles. "Broadway Boogie Woogie," painted just prior to Mondrian’s death in 1944, created a splash, serving as a catalyst for the American abstractionists of the ‘50s and ‘60s."
- From David Sylvester, "About Modern Art: Critical Essays, 1948-1997"
Theo van Doesburg.
Simultaneous Countercomposition 1929
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
|Form: Oil on canvas. geometrical forms, solid, straight black lines
with a couple blocks of color, the rest is off white and grey.
Iconography: This is an example of a work done in the form of the group of artists who ascribed to the 'De Stijl". It is using the elements of horizontal and vertical, black and white, and primary colors. It is abstraction distilled down to its' most basic. Note, however, that it is intentionally not perfect. What the artist wants the viewer to realize is that the longer it is looked at, the more one can see. The lines are of varying widths, and in some cases do not follow all the way to the edge of the canvas. The colors are not consistent all the way through, if one looks closely, they begin to pick up the differences in shade and values. It can be seen as well in the lower work that the color values shift constantly, and though it may, at first glance, seem to be more complicated than the top composition, it is just as basic and abstract. The only difference being the creation of a three-dimensional illusion made by overlapping objects.
Context: "Christian Emil Marie Küpper, who adopted the pseudonym Theo van Doesburg, was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on August 30, 1883. His first exhibition of paintings was held in 1908 in the Hague. In the early 1910s he wrote poetry and established himself as an art critic. From 1914 to 1916 van Doesburg served in the Dutch army, after which time he settled in Leiden and began his collaboration with the architects J. J. P. Oud and Jan Wils. In 1917 they founded the group De Stijl [more] and the periodical of the same name; other original members were Vilmos Huszár, Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, and Georges Vantongerloo. Van Doesburg executed decorations for Oud’s De Vonk project in Noordwijkerhout in 1917. In 1920 he resumed his writing, using the pen name I. K. Bonset and later Aldo Camini. Van Doesburg visited Berlin and Weimar in 1921 and the following year taught at the Weimar Bauhaus [more], where he associated with Raoul Hausmann, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Hans Richter. He was interested in Dada [more] at this time and worked with Kurt Schwitters as well as Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, and others on the review Mécano in 1922. Exhibitions of the architectural designs of Gerrit Rietveld, van Doesburg, and Cor van Eesteren were held in Paris in 1923 at Léonce Rosenberg’s Galerie l’Effort Moderne and in 1924 at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture.The Landesmuseum of Weimar presented a solo show of van Doesburg’s work in 1924. That same year he lectured on modern literature in Prague, Vienna, and Hannover, and the Bauhaus published his Grundbegriffe der neuen gestaltenden Kunst (Principles of Neo-Plastic Art). A new phase of De Stijl was declared by van Doesburg in his manifesto of “Elementarism,” published in 1926. During that year he collaborated with Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp on the decoration of the restaurant-cabaret L’Aubette in Strasbourg. Van Doesburg returned to Paris in 1929 and began working on a house at Meudon-Val-Fleury with van Eesteren. Also in that year he published the first issue of Art concret, the organ of the Paris-based group of the same name. Van Doesburg was the moving force behind the formation of the group Abstraction-Création in Paris. The artist died on March 7, 1931, in Davos, Switzerland." (www.guggenheim.org)
Gerrit Rietveld. Schroder House 1924
Weightless Floating Walls
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
|Form: Study painting for Schroder house construction. everything is
geometricized and with primary colors plus white and black.
Iconography: It can be seen from this study how the essence of DeStijl was at work. Many right angles and cube forms, black and white and primary colors, and simplicity.
Context: Rietveld was a part of the movement, in the form of architecture. Whlie Mondrian and vanDoesburg were traditionally painters, Rietveld was a cabinet maker and a carpenter. He brought the conceptual ideas of DeStijl to life in three dimensional form.
|Form: a house with geometricized architecture, overlapping rectangles,
mainly white with black and some primary colored rectangles to give it
Iconography: "Gerrit Rietveld worked closely in collaboration with the
client for this house. More than any other, this is either—in Banham's
words—'a cardboard Mondrian' or an enormous piece of furniture masquerading
as a house. All windows could only be opened up completely, at right angles
to frames, repeating the devices by which the upper floor could be transformed
from one single space into a series of smaller ones—the point being that
in either positioning of windows or moveable walls, the house retained
its neoplastic hypothesis."
Context: "No one had ever looked at this little lane before this
house was built here. There was a dirty crumbling wall with weeds growing
in front of it. Over there was a small farm. It was a very rural spot,
and this sort of fitted in. It was a deserted place, where anyone who wanted
to pee just did it against this wall. It was a real piece of no-man's-land.
And we said, 'Yes, this is just right, let's build it here.' And we took
this plot of ground and made it into a place with a reality of its own.
It didn't matter what it was, so long as something was there, something
clear. And that's what it became. And that's always been my main aim: to
give to a yet unformed space, a certain meaning."
|Form Wooden chair, laquer.
"The famous Red & Blue chair was designed in 1917. Nothing has existed like that before. It marked the transition between the organic, curving Art Noveau Style and the crisp, chic Art Deco. The Red & Blue chair is composed out of a dramatic interplay of straight lines to form patterns. The lines produce form by enclosing space, the structure has very simple components and the striking colors are a reminder of paintings by the artist Mondrian. Although there is no upholstery, the chair is amazingly comfortable." www.dezignare.com
Context: This chair, or rather the duplicates of it, are still being sold today. It has become increasingly popular as a symbol of DeStijl, perhaps a testament to the thought that this movement may never truly die out. As said on www.centraalmuseum.com, "With the Red-and-Blue Chair, Rietveld reduced the armchair to its most elementary form. In 1918, he strove to create a chair without volume or mass, one that left surrounding space unbroken. Rietveld also wanted to make furniture that could be machine-produced. The famous colour scheme probably only dated from around 1923, the colours adding to the strength of the spatial character of the work. The superficial similarity to the work of Mondrian made the Red-and-Blue Chair an icon of De Stijl design. Rietveld himself attached no absolute value whatever to the primary colours, making the same chair for Charley Toorop in pink and sea-green, as well as a version for Paul Citroen in black with white trim on the crosscuts."