Born in August 1883, Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, is the founder of the artistic movement called De Stijl. It is the process of simplifying the visual composition into a pure abstraction using geometric shapes. He was an artist with a wide range of talents; he is a painter, an architect, a designer, a poet, and an art theorist. Piet Modrian and Wassily Kandinsky inspired van Doesburg to paint geometric abstractions of subjects based on nature. His paintings are simplistic consisting of plain vertical and horizontal shapes and primary colors. From painting, he began to focus on the promotion of De Stijl movement and formed a group of artists in Germany and France. In reaction to his unreciprocated hope of joining the faculty of the Bauhaus art school, he established his own studio directly next to the Bauhaus and attracted many students to join the development of his ideas based on Constructivism, Dadaism, and De Stijl.
Two popular early abstraction works from van Doesburg are the paintings Dancers and Composition VIII (The Cow). Dancers is an abstract oil painting in the style of Constructivism. The painting consists of neutral-colored geometric shapes assembled to form two human figures. The figures represent the Hindu deity, Krishna, who is seen dancing while playing a flute. Van Doesburg created this work to express spiritual perspectives. Another work where he incorporated figure study is the painting Composition VIII, also called The Cow. Van Doesburg used figurative sketches to analyze the form of a cow and slowly create a simplified composition to justify his practice, De Stijl. The cow figure is transformed into a group of colorful, flat rectangles and squares placed in the center of a plain white canvas.
Dancers. c. 1916
Composition VIII (The Cow). c. 1918
A series of figurative sketches and transformation of the cow figure. c. 1918
Van Doesburg has been influential in different fields of contemporary art. He has a big impact in architecture. A German-born American architect, Ludwig Lies Van der Role, incorporated van Doesburg’s idea of using bold-colored geometry to help define modern architecture. Van der Role is an architect and educator who exemplifies International Style of architecture and is acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest architects. Van Doesburg also wrote numerous theories and journals on geometric abstraction which influenced not only Modernist architects but also many graphic designers.
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