Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview
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14: De Stijl: the International phase

THOUGH IT IS impossible to draw a hard and fast line between the Dutch and International phases of de Stijl, in terms of theoretical writings or artistic productions, the change in membership between 1920 and 1922 is very marked indeed, and gives a fair picture of the transformation that was in process. By the beginning of 1922 van der Leck, van Tongerloo, van t'Hoff, Wils, Oud and Kok had left, and Huszar was about to leave, while Mondriaan, established in Paris since 1919, was no longer a directly effective member, though he did not resign finally until 1925. Severini had also lost contact, so that van Doesburg himself alone remained of the original membership. The new men who filled the gaps were very different from those who had left.

Only two of them were Dutch, two were imaginary, one was German, one was Russian. The Dutch pair were Gerrit Rietveld, who had been a member since as early as 1918, but only now came to prominence, and Cor van Eesteren, whom van Doesburg enrolled in Weimar in 1923. Both have gained fame as architects though Rietveld seems to have entered the group as a furniture-maker, and van Eesteren, far from being a convinced Modernist when he met van Doesburg, was on his way to take up a Rome scholarship. The two imaginary members were both pseudo-persons of van Doesburg1 in his Dadaist mood, I. K. Bonset and Aldo Camini, and it was over these signatures that he made most of his purely literary contributions to de Stijl. The German was Hans Richter, a former Dadaist who had turned to abstraction independently of the Dutch Movement, and the Russian was El Lissitsky, the apostle of Constructivism to Western Europe. The adherence of Lissitsky was brief, though important, and his place was taken by two other members of the Berlin G group, Frederich Kiesler, the Austrian theatrical designer, and Werner Graeff, an ex-student of the Bauhaus who was later connected with the Werkbund. The fourth and most celebrated member of G, Mies van der Rohe, never became a

Even ' van Doesburg' was a pseudonym--his real name was C. E. M. Kupper.


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