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Aesthetic Theory

Formalist Theory:
De Stijl (The Style)
1916-1931
A New Style…
The De Stijl (literally, "the
style") art movement was
founded by the painter and
architect Theo van Doesburg
in Leiden in 1917. It
encompassed a new type of
style in modern art and
architecture. This movement
used the artistic talent of the
artists by designing homes,
buildings, and furniture.
Red and Blue Chair designed
by Gerrit Rietveld in 1917
Objective Perspective
Founder members of the group included the
painter Mondrian, the sculptor Vantongerloo,
the architect J.J.P. Oud and the designer and
architect Rietveld. They were eager to
develop a new aesthetic consciousness and
an objective art based on clear principles.
Their work and research extended to the fine
arts, city and town planning, the applied arts
and philosophy.
"The New Plastic in Composition with Yellow, Blue, and
Painting", best Red 1939-42. Piet Mondrian. Oil on
canvas. 72.5 x 69 cm. London, Tate
expresses their ideas for Gallery.

reduction of form and


simplistic abstraction:
"The new plastic
art...can only be based
on the abstraction of all
form and color, i.e. the
straight line and the
clearly defined primary
color" (De Stijl
Magazine, Lemoine,
1987, p.29).
Theo van Doesburg (Christian Emil Marie Küpper) (Dutch,
1883–1931.)

Rhythm of a Russian Dance. [Rythme d’une danse russe]1918

Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 24 1/4" (135.9 x 61.6 cm)


The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the
Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

Art was seen as a collective approach, with a


language that went beyond cultural, geographical
and political divisions. The depersonalization of the
artwork was carried through into the execution
which was anonymous and impersonal. The artist's
personality took a back seat to a conscious and
calculated working process. The key ideas
underpinning the movement could not be
separated from Mondrian's aesthetic theory of
Neo-Plasticism. This theory was aimed at scaling
down the formal components of art - only primary
colors and straight lines. A painting was derived
from the features of the surface, although many De
Stijl paintings were abstractions of natural
phenomena, such as van Doesburg's "Rhythms of
a Russian Dance" (1918).
While Mondrian's work adhered to the strict principles Rietveld Schroder House
of Neo-Plasticism, Van Doesburg sought to broaden Prins Hendriklaan 50
the movement's research projects into architecture, Utrecht
reconceiving the entire living environment. A De Stijl The Netherlands
picture represented a fragment of a larger project
concerning space: the house as an interior space, and Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
the city as an assembly of houses. The austere forms 1924
of De Stijl were well suited to the geometric structures
favored by the International Modernist movement, Original Model on Right
while the primary colors favored by the painters could
be used as decorative elements to articulate an
otherwise plain facade.
Alternate Views and Detail
Main Representatives
 Theo van Doesburg  Jan Wils
 Piet Mondrian  Antony Kok
 Georges Vantongerloo  Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
 Mies van dr Rohe  Sophie Taeuber-Arp
 Jean Arp  Vilmos Huszar
 El Lissitzky  Bart van der Leck
 Romert van't Hoff  Jacobus-Johannes-Pieter
 Cesar Domela Oud
 Cornelis van Eesteren  Gerrit Rietveld
 Piet Zwart
 Friedrich Vordemberge-
Gildewart