El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, a Russian  artist, designer, photographer, typographer and architect was important during the Russian Suprematism. He designed many works alongside his mentor, Kazimir Malevich (founded this arts movement). These works displayed propaganda and displays for exhibition. His works changed the way one experiments with materials and production techniques, which later influenced the Bauhaus  and carries on to 20th century graphic design. He innovated change in producing photomontage, book production, and typographic exhibitions. El Lissitzky believed that artwork and artists could be used to change surrounding environments. Being of Jewish origin, he created books in order to help spread and share his culture through Russia. During this time, Russia was going through many changes.

His artworks, like many during this time were focused on basic geometric forms in limited colors and abstraction. Centered and based around right angles and grids. Text were often also placed at an angle. This different from the classic art usually based on what we see (Prouns: establishment for New Art). El Lissitzky’s piece “Beat the White with the Red Wedge” was one his most popular posters. In the image, we see shapes of primarily white, black and some grey. These simple composition is broken by a large red triangle placed in the center of the frame. This was said to symbolize the environment in this time period- the bolsheviks fighting their opponents during Russian Civil War.


This helping begin the Constructivist movement. His works similar to these helped spread that art is not only what you see, but also can spread an idea or phase through simple shapes and forms.



Theo van Doesburg

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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.


Theo_van_Doesburg_Dancers_1916.jpgDancers. c. 1916

tumblr_nb2v0m8Ypt1r1jmv0o1_1280.pngComposition VIII (The Cow). c. 1918

f63727ac827d85b072b88145435e2474.jpgA 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.


“Theo Van Doesburg Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works …” The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. 

“Theo Van Doesberg.” Design Is History. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Theo Van Doesburg.” Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Mies Van Der Rohe Society – Legacy.” Mies Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian, born in 1872 in the Netherlands, studied the fine arts of figure drawing and genre panting from an early age. As he progressed as an artist, his work began to exhibit influences of post-impressionism and pointillism, especially evident in his landscape compositions. However, a major turning point in Mondrian’s career came with his move to Paris in 1912, where he became intimately acquainted with the Analytic Cubist works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. It was at this time when his style shifted from representational to modern abstraction. For a time, Mondrian adopted the Cubist reduction of images and its muted color palette; however, he soon challenged Cubist thought and sought to completely eliminate any sort of illusionistic depth from his paintings, highlighting the flatness of the canvas. This push towards complete reductive geometric abstraction ultimately culminated in the founding of the De Stijl movement with fellow compatriot Theo van Doesburg. The movement sought a universal style that erased all nationalistic identity, a response to the egotistic nationalism that De Stijl members believed fueled the conflict of the First World War. Mondrian referred to his own aesthetic as ‘Neo-Plasticism’, which rejected decorative excess and emotional complexity.


I fine example of this style is evident in Mondrian’s painting “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” created in 1942-43. This composition exemplifies Mondrian’s goal of revealing the harmony and order that exists in the natural world through abstract lines and shapes, distilling everything down to blocks of primary colors. At this time, Mondrian was living in New York City. The influence of the energetic metropolis can be seen in the intersecting yellow lines populated by brightly colored squares, reminiscent of bustling city streets. The asymmetry of the composition also alludes to the varied rhythm of urban life. Even while reflecting the vitality of New York City, Mondrian still highlights the inherent order and harmony that he believed underlies the universe through the orthogonal composition and simple palette of primary colors.

Mondrian’s work, as well as the utopian ideals of universal harmony promoted by the De Stijl movement had a lasting impact on the development of modern art. Mondrian’s simplified lines and austere color palette influenced both the Bauhaus aesthetic as well as the works of the Minimalists in the late 1960s. Mondrian’s paintings also permeated popular culture, as seen in the color-blocking design of Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Mondrian’ day dress.


Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

“Piet Mondrian Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story Modern Art Insight. The Art Story Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.