De Stijl 1917 – 1931

Dutch periodical founded by Theo Van Doesburg in 1917 and published in Leiden until 1932; the name was also applied from the 1920s to a distinctive movement and to the group of artists associated with it The periodical’s subtitle, Maandblad voor de beeldende vakken (Monthly Journal of the Expressive Professions), indicates the range of artists to which it was appealing, and van Doesburg’s intention was that it be a platform for all those who were concerned with a new art: painters, sculptors, architects, urban planners, typographers, interior designers, and decoratve artists, musicians, poets, and dramatists The search for a nieuwe beelding (new imagery) was characterized by the elementary components of the primary colours, flat, rectangular areas and only straight, horizontal, and vertical lines Former ideals of beauty had to be relinquished in favour of a new consciousness to represent the spirit of the times

De Stijl, Dutch for “The Style”, also known as neoplasticism, was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 in Leiden The De Stijl consisted of artists and architects In a narrower sense, the term De Stijl is used to refer to a body of work from 1917 to 1931 founded in the Netherlands Proponents of De Stijl advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour; they simplified visual compositions to vertical and horizontal, using only black, white and primary colors

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De Stijl is also the name of a journal that was published by the Dutch painter, designer, writer, and critic Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931) that served to propagate the group’s theories Next to van Doesburg, the group’s principal members were the painters Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), Vilmos Huszár (1884–1960), and Bart van der Leck (1876–1958), and the architects Gerrit Rietveld (1888–1964), Robert van ‘t Hoff (1887–1979), and J J P Oud (1890–1963) The artistic philosophy that formed a basis for the group’s work is known as neoplasticism—the new plastic art (or Nieuwe Beelding in Dutch)

Mondrian sets forth the delimitations of neoplasticism in his essay “Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art” He writes, “this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour” With these constraints, his art allows only primary colours and non-colours, only squares and rectangles, only straight and horizontal or vertical lines The De Stijl movement posited the fundamental principle of the geometry of the straight line, the square, and the rectangle, combined with a strong asymmetricality; the predominant use of pure primary colors with black and white; and the relationship between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of non-objective forms and lines”

De Stijl was influenced by Cubist painting as well as by the mysticism and the ideas about “ideal” geometric forms (such as the “perfect straight line”) in the neoplatonic philosophy of mathematician M H J Schoenmaekers The De Stijl movement was also influenced by Neopositivism The works of De Stijl would influence the Bauhaus style and the international style of architecture as well as clothing and interior design However, it did not follow the general guidelines of an “-ism” (eg, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism), nor did it adhere to the principles of art schools like the Bauhaus; it was a collective project, a joint enterprise

In music, De Stijl was an influence only on the work of composer Jakob van Domselaer, a close friend of Mondrian Between 1913 and 1916, he composed his Proeven van Stijlkunst (“Experiments in Artistic Style”), inspired mainly by Mondrian’s paintings This minimalistic—and, at the time, revolutionary—music defined “horizontal” and “vertical” musical elements and aimed at balancing those two principles Van Domselaer was relatively unknown in his lifetime, and did not play a significant role within the De Stijl group