The ArtFile

dutch English

Book Store

Art Posters!


Valid CSS!

The Style 1917 - 1930

Theo van Doesburg tried from 1915 to 1917 to bring in new members for an alliance of Dutch composition XI, 1918 artists. The purpose of the alliance was to stand up as a group instead of standing up as individual artists.

In 1917 the first number of the magazine 'The Style' was launched. The idea for this magazine came from Theo van Doesburg. It was meant for explaining his own work as well as the work of the other members of the alliance. For them the magazine was an instrument to discuss new modern art and to spread their own ideas.

Still there are several points of view about the origin of The Style.
If we look at the date of foundation, the first World War, we can point out the endeavor of the society as base of the origin. At that time it was very chaotic in Holland. The people wanted peace, rest and harmony again. The members of The Style tried to reflect in their work what in the entire social development could not be achieved, The Ideal Harmony.

compredyellowblue, mondriaan, 1921 If we look at the former art periods, The Style seems a logic outcome of the Cubist period (1907- 1914). The Cubist artists tried to order the reality. The result of ordering the reality often looks like a harmonious totality. The cubists however, still used identifiable figures and elements in their paintings; their paintings were still telling something. The Style carried the principal of ordering the reality through, by ordering the reality even further. The paintings made by members of The Style do not show identifiable figures at all. These paintings have a non-telling character, but are still understandable and reflecting something.

chair red and blue, rietveld, 1918-23The Style did not restrict itself to the art of painting. The members wanted to realize the principals of The Style in many different artistic areas, such as architecture, sculpture, design, etc.

Theo van Doesburg actually wanted to call the magazine 'The Straight Line', but influenced by the other members the name became 'The Style' after all. The members thought that the word 'Style', preceded by the the word 'The' , suggests that it is the best, possibly even the only style, usable in the modern art and society.

Although the purpose was to stand up as a group, the members van der Leck and van Doesburg started to use diagonals and and the color green. (1925) Everybody thought this simultaneous countercomposition, 1929would be the end for the alliance, but that was not true at all. Mondriaan and several other members started to experience with diagonals and other colors. By doing this they stood up as a group again and saved one of the basic principals of the alliance The Style.

The Style ended in 1931 when Theo van Doesburg started a new alliance, called 'Abstraction-Creation" and therefor ended his membership with The Style. With Van Doesburg ending his membership, the magazine 'The Style' died also. The Style however did not end completely. In some way, the other members continued carrying out the principals of The style, but individually in stead of as a group. This meant the ending of the essence of the alliance.

The Style was such an important movement that it still inspires the art and architecture. The Style is everywhere: Clothes, curtains, furniture, carpets, packing, etc. In all you can find elements of The Style. People copied the principals of The Style or were influenced by it.

The principals of The Style
composition XXII, 1920-1922 The Style is a variation of the abstract art, which is characteristic for the opinions about art of the modern times. This modern art had to be non-illustrative and non-telling in contrast to the former art movements and it's opinions. The modern art had to be able to stand on its own and had to be understandable without referring to the concrete world. So it did not have to reflect something identifiable to be understandable.

The Style is recognizable by the use of straight horizontal en vertical lines as well as the use of the primary colors red, yellow and blue. They also used the colors black, white and gray. The result of it all seems an almost technically constructured totality. It was not the intention to tell something concrete, but to show the world the ideal harmony.

The Style went back to the fundamental elements of the art: color and form, level and line. With these elements the artist developed new sculptural language and with that the placed the ideal world opposite the reality. Most of the artist used closed and open forms, density and space, color and form. By using these elements within one painting, the ideal harmony could be reached. All elements have their own function in the totality.
The lines are the borders and make the open or closed forms. The lines are also used to create a certain space. The border of the painting is not the end of the painting. We can use our fantasy to fill in the rest; to let it grow as big as we want, as big as we can imagine. compositie no. 10, mondriaan, 1939-1942 By using only the primary colors, the artist could create a 3-dimensional effect. The colors attract immediate attention. Therefor the rest of the painting seems to go to the background. It looks like the white forms are further back than the colored forms. That is how the artists created a front and a back in their paintings, witch is held in harmony because of the use of different sized forms.

So the ideal harmony could only be reached by using the perfect proportion between:

  • the size of the colored forms
  • the colored and uncolored forms
  • the closed and open forms

By the use of ideal proportions, the artists were able to create peace and balance in their work, witch reflects the ideal harmony in the most perfect way.

The members of the alliance saw art as the bridge between reality and harmony. If harmony was reached in reality, art would lose its function.

de stijl footer