THE DESTYLL OR NEO PLASTICISM MOVEMENT OF PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944) AND THEO VAN DOESBURG(1883-1931). AN EXPLORATION OF GEOMETRIC, CONSTRUCTIVIST AND ABSTRACT ART FROM 1917-1930 IN HOLLAND , GERMANY AND THE SOVIET UNION. PART 2

In this post I am going to explore in more detail the contribution of Van Doesburg.

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Theo_van_Doesburg_Composition_VII_(the_three_graces)

Kenneth Frampton in his article on the deStyll movement has suggested three phases of development . ” The aesthetic and programmatic development of the destyll movement may be broken down into 3 phases . First phase 1916-1921 is formative and essentially centred upon Holland; the second phase from 1921-1925 is to be regarded as a period of maturity and of the international dimension , with the third hase from 1925-1931 must be seen as a period of transformation and of ultimate disintegration” [1].

Frampton explains why Mondrian and Van Doesburg went their separate ways. ” Once again it was Mondrian who finally broke with destyll and VanDoesburg in 1925″. [2]. Commenting on Mondrian’s development Frampton offers a reason. ” By 1917 Mondrian is at an intellectually new point of departure in which his work comprises a series of compositions consisting of floating, rectangular coloured planes”. [3].

” However Mondrian at this  date (1917) is still preoccupied with the generation of shallow spatial developments through the literal and phenomenal overlapping of his coloured planes”. [4].

Van Doesburg of the two of them was the more revolutionary embracing the revolutionary developments taking place in Bolshevik Russia. He worked together with Hans Richter and El Lissitsky to develop Soviet Contructivism from the discipline of painting to Architecture which would show that Van Doesburg would use art for a Social Purpose.  Art for the new Socialist society in the USSR rather than art for arts sake. ” The first blood brought to destyll in 1922 reflected Van Doesburg’s post-war international orientation -El Lissitsky and Hans Richter”. [5]. ” On Van Doesburg’s arrival in the Weimar (Germany) he immediately took up a line of attack against the individualistic expressionist and mystical approach prevalent  at the Bauhaus at that time”. [6]. ” More important , however for the development of deStyll was Van Doesburg’s meeting with his eastern European counterpart the Russian graphist , painter and architect ELiezar Lissitsky “. [7].

This development for Van Doesburg was to lead to a split in their artistic practices between Mondrian and Van Doesburg. ” at the outset there is a dramatic rift between Mondrian and Van Doesburg over the latters introduction of the diagonal into his works of 1924″. [8].

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Van Doesburg from 1928 would be influenced by Soviet Constructivism and a Materialist approach to artistic practices.” For it is Van Doesburg himself who has been affected by Left-wing anti-art constructivists concepts in which social forces and the means of technical production are seen as spontaneously developing form, independent of any concern for the ideal forms of Universal harmony”. [9]. ” By 1930 the neo-plastic ideal of a world of Universal harmony had been eroded and then later by the impact of external cultural pressure”. [10].

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Other commentators have commented on this abstract movement which for a short period represented exact and geometric artistic representations. ” The Netherlands based destyll movement embraced an abstract pared-down aesthetic centred in basic visual elements such as geometrical forms and primary claims”. [11]. ” Like other avant garde movements of the time  de styll emerged largely in response to the horros of World war 1″. [12]. ” Theo Van Doesburg 1883-1931 was influenced by Vincent Van gogh and Wassily Kandinsky”. [13]. As many commentators have noted Mondrian’s work was not completely abstract . ” Mondrian realises the importance of the Line”. [14].

The split between these two great artists was over the use of Diagonals in opposition to the Line which for Mondrian was paramount. ” Mondrian never accepted Diagonals whereas Van Doesburg insisted on the diagonals dynamic effects”. [15].

In my final conclusion to the emergence of Neo Plasticism I have considered and explored the contributions of Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg. Mondrian remained a painter to the end of his day and was concerned to show how art could bring peace and Universal harmony into the world  after the horrors of Imperialist War. He was striving for a an Idealist practice  by producing perfectly balanced and composed art work that gave homage to the line. It was an idealist concept and it would be left to the more Revolutionary Theo Van Doesburg to embrace the social and material art of Soviet Constructivism which attempted to represent an art which could be used for Society and for the mass of Workers and youth after the horror of World One. That this was not achieved was due to the counter revolutionary role of Stalinism which became the grave digger of Revolution.

FOOTNOTES

  1.  CONCEPTS OF MODERN ART DESTYLL  KENNETH FRAMPTON PG 143
  2. DITTO PG 144
  3. DITTO PG 145
  4. DITTO PG 145
  5. DITTO PG 147
  6. DITTO PG  147
  7. DITTO PG 148
  8. DITTO PG 151
  9. DITTO PG 151
  10. DITTO PG 154
  11. DITTO  PG 155
  12. http://www.theartstory.org/movementofdestyll
  13. ditto
  14. https//en.wikepedia.org.uk/theo_van_doesburg
  15. ditto

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