100 Years of De Stijl: The Pre-cursor of Modern Art and Architecture

100 Years of De Stijl: The Pre-cursor of Modern Art and Architecture

By: Janet Thomas, RID

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the De Stijl art movement in Amsterdam, Holland. Piet Mondrian (http://www.pietmondrian.com/ ) and Theo van Doesburg (http://www.designishistory.com/1920/theo-van-doesberg/) founded the movement to provide a new voice for modern art after the chaos of World War I. Mondrian referred to this highly structured art form Neo-Plasticism or “New Art”. Rejecting the organic, decorative orientation of Impressionism, Art Nouvea and Fauvism, De Stijl favored the sciences and rapidly growing industrial machine aesthetic. Principles of Neo-Plasticism include

  • Use of only geometric shapes or straight lines
  • All surfaces are rectilinear or prismatic
  • Curves, diagonals and circles were not allowed
  • Colors were restricted to red, yellow, with black, white and gray
  • Balance was attained through geometrical motifs, bold color and bold line work
  • No reference to the figurative or symbolic

The principles of De Stijl were influenced by artistic movements Cubism and Constructivism along with the Bauhaus School of Design.

Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld incorporated De Stijl in his designs, the most famous of which is the Rietveld Shroder house (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyZZktZgamI) . In this video you will see how the upper floor strictly adheres to the geometric premises and use of primary colors. However, the introduction of moving partitions, window fenestration, modular furniture and skylight drew the attention of his contemporaries in the Bauhaus School of Design. Mies van Der Rohe was working on his own post war vision of honest architecture and industrial design. The De Stijl pureness of line aligned with his desire to strip architecture to its purest form. His buildings and furniture became world renowned and the International Style was formed.

Theo van Doesburg later became interested in Constructivism and began introducing 45 degree angles into his art and interior Design. The Café Aubette (http://www.archdaily.com/791507/ad-classics-cafe-laubette-strasbourg-theo-van-doesburg ) in Strasbourg is a fine distillation of his concepts.

Mondrian moved to New York prior to World War II and continued to refine his Neo-Plasticism. His works can be found in museums around the world including the Indianapolis Museum of Art. To commemorate the De Stijl movement and its continuing influence on art and design, Holland is hosting a retrospective of works, special exhibits and tours (http://www.holland.com/global/tourism/interests/holland-stories/mondrian-to-dutch-design.htm ). The simple geometry, blocks of color and prismatic shapes continue to inspire fashion, interior design, architecture and art.

Images courtesy of: http://www.Pietmondrian.com/  and http://www.holland.com

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