De Stijl and Modernism
During the beginning of the early 20th century an idea common between both artists and designers generated to create art and space beyond natural organic forms, into simpler versions of lines (Davies, 2017). In 1917, an editorial called ‘De Stijl’ started, marking the start of a movement which created a significant change in the field of art and architecture. The movement had started to keep the Dutch on the way to progress in the field of art and architecture. It explored the idea to represent reality through lines, planes and surfaces. The colours were restricted to primary, neutral tones, black and white. This idea grew through Piet Mondrian; he was an inspiration for many other architects, designers and painters associated with De Stijl and the one who coined the term Neo-Plasticism. His ideology was shared by another, the founder of the editorial and the promoter of the movement, Theo van Doesburg. The magazine found by van Doesburg had articles about pieces of his works and of other architects too. The members of the magazine communicated by letter each sharing their ideas and inspirations. They discussed about De Stijl and wrote pieces about the art born out of the movement.
The first issue of De Stijl was called ‘The Aubette Issue’ (Banham, 1997). It was named so after a building in Place Kleber, Strasbourg, France where Theo van Doesburg, also a designer and architect, along with Jean Arp and his wife Sophie Tuber redesigned the interiors of the café and few more rooms in the building. The main café was designed using large rectangles of various colours with reference to the De Stijl movement, although van Doesburg did in some places break the rules of straight lines by taking diagonals to create more interesting spaces (Fiederer, 2016). Yet the place was not appreciated after its opening in 1928 and the interiors were changed after a year. They were considered as interiors again and later restored in 1960. The Café L’Aubette is known as the “Sistine chapel of abstract art” (Batiactu, 2006).
Architecture and De Stijl – The Schroder House
The art work on canvas went on to create spaces which were designed as if they came out of the oil paintings. The only execution of the De Stijl principles in architecture was done when Gerrit Reitvald, primarily a furniture designer, decided to make the Schroder House. “Modernism stated that a building should reveal its structure” (MJ5446). A completely open ground floor and coloured walls avoided any ornamentation thus maximized the architectural space (Banham, 1997). The grey and neutral tones of the house are balanced by the millions and transoms which are painted in red, blue or yellow (Davies, 2017). The minimalist use of colours complements not only the house but also the surrounding area of Utrecht where it’s built. The windows are shutters rather than simple glass panes and are hinged so that they open at 90 degrees (Sveiven, 2010). The house has sliding walls to give a feeling of openness and provide privacy at the same time. With the house he made his own furniture to use and in the process designed the iconic Red/Blue Lounge Chair. The house is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and it is now nearly 100 years old and an inspiration to the architecture blossoming around it.
The Broadway Boogie Woogie
The movement was famous for its artwork too. Piet Mondrian made various paintings which inspired building models and furniture. After his move to New York his work explored grid patterns with increased use of red, blue and yellow. His last painting, the Broadway Boogie Woogie, explores this new change said to be, “These atomized bands of stuttering chromatic pulses, interrupted by light grey, create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz.” (Museum of Modern Art, 2010). The painting is also referred to be a grid layout of Manhattan Streets if they were put on a map (Jenson, 2007). As for the painting itself it showed a change in style from compositions which had previously been marked with heavy black lines to form the grid layout to newer art pieces in which the primary colours were in foreground and light neutral tones in the back. This painting has a grid network of primary colours in which yellow is used the most. The art work on canvas went on to create spaces which were designed as if they came out of the oil painting.
Spreading De Stijl Principles
Moving towards the latter half of the movement, Theo van Doesburg became a frequent traveller to Germany, Paris and Prague hoping to extend the influence beyond Netherlands (Crouch, 1998).His travels and meetings were a source of influence in the German modernist movement when he tried to teach at Bauhaus. Though he wasn’t able to teach there, he still left a lasting impression on architects like Walter Groupis who carried forward the principles of De Stijl. In 1931 the movement started to collapse when its main promoter Theo van Doesburg passed away. The members had fallout and each went on to continue in their respective fields. Some of them gave up following De Stijl whereas some, like Gerrit Reitvald, would continue to use De Stijl principles in their design. After the Second World War reconstructing buildings and objects created opportunities for the budding artists. During this time period a group of people collected to form Structure, a journal which would publish based on the ideas of De Stijl, Dada and other movements (Jobse, 2005). Belonging to this group, Joost Baljeu, a sculptor, went on to create art pieces and sculptures which were heavily influenced by De Stijl. His sculptures are placed in many public spaces including The Hague (Jobse, 2005). Not only sculptors but many architects took up the foundation idea of creating rectilinear spaces. Even though the movement lasted only 15 years it inspired many people in fields of art, architecture, design and even the fashion world where designers like Yves Saint Laurent designed the Mondrian dress. In the field of architecture it laid ground work for many of the current principles followed in the international style of architecture such as reduction of ornamentation and use of planes. The Barcelona Pavilion made by Mies van der Rohe and Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier are really good examples of de stijl inspired work (Padovan,2002). De Stijl had been a movement for not only creating a new identity for art but to also show different perspectives of a determined group of people.