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De Stijl Collage

De Stijl

Started: 1917

Ended: 1931

De Stijl Timeline

Important Art and Artists of De Stijl

The below artworks are the most important in De Stijl - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in De Stijl. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Piet Mondrian: Composition A (1920)

Composition A (1920)

Artist: Piet Mondrian

Artwork description & Analysis: Composition A - whose title announces its nonobjective nature by making no reference to anything beyond itself - is a good example of Mondrian's geometric abstraction before it fully matured within the framework of the De Stijl aesthetic. With its rectilinear forms made up of solid, outlined areas of color, the work reflects the artist's experimentation with Schoenmaekers's mathematical theory and his search for a pared-down visual language appropriate to the modern era. While here Mondrian uses blacks and shades of grey, his paintings would later be further reduced, ultimately employing more basic compositions and only solid blocks of primary colors.

Oil on canvas - The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome

Vilmos Huszar: Mechano-Dancer (1922)

Mechano-Dancer (1922)

Artist: Vilmos Huszar

Artwork description & Analysis: This early work employs the signature geometric shapes of the De Stijl aesthetic, yet its layering of shapes and forms, and combination of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines--along with the absence of color - reflect a different approach from that of the movement's leading artists, van Doesburg and Mondrian. The work's suggestion of a human figure - accomplished by the arrangement of geometric forms and placement of a cube at the top, possibly representing a head - is also unique in De Stijl art. Mechano-Dancer's evocation of a hybrid man-machine, also implied by its title, suggests the influence of Dada and Italian Futurism.

Photomontage - Private collection, New York

Gerrit Rietveld: Red and Blue Chair (1923)

Red and Blue Chair (1923)

Artist: Gerrit Rietveld

Artwork description & Analysis: Originally designed in 1918 but not fully realized until 1923, when it incorporated the characteristic De Stijl scheme of primary colors, Red and Blue Chair is one of the canonical works of the movement. Rietveld envisioned a chair that played with and transformed the space around it, consisting of rectilinear volumes, planes, and lines that interact in unique ways, yet manage to avoid intersection. Every color, line, and plane is clearly defined, as if each comprised its own work that just happened to be used for a piece of furniture. The simple assembly Rietveld deployed was quite intentional as well; he built the chair out of standard lumber sizes available at the time, reflecting his goal of realizing a piece of furniture that could be mass-produced as opposed to hand-crafted. Emphasizing its manmade quality, Red and Blue Chair also notably avoids the use of natural form, which furniture designers tend to favor in order to emphasize the idea of physical comfort and convenience.

Painted wood - Auckland Museum, New Zealand

Theo van Doesburg: Counter Composition V (1924)

Counter Composition V (1924)

Artist: Theo van Doesburg

Artwork description & Analysis: First introduced in 1924, van Doesburg's Counter Compositions - his signature works - embody the artist's wish to move beyond the confines of De Stijl with his introduction of Elementarism. While van Doesburg continued to make use of horizontal and vertical lines, he now prioritized the diagonal line; he described Elementarism as "based on the neutralization of positive and negative directions by the diagonal and, as far as color is concerned, by the dissonant. Equilibrated relations are not an ultimate result." The titles of his Counter Compositions refer to the fact that the lines of the compositions are at a 45-degree angle to the sides of the picture rather than parallel to them, resulting in a newly energized relationship between the composition and format of the canvas. As in the present example, he repeatedly ventured beyond the three primary colors, including a triangle of grey in addition to the primary colors, white, and black. At the time he painted this composition, De Stijl was finding its own unique voice; paintings, furniture designs, and buildings produced by those associated with the movement communicated how lines and colors should interact, and how a work's appearance is just as essential as its function.

Oil on canvas - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Gerrit Rietveld: Rietveld Schröder House (1924)

Rietveld Schröder House (1924)

Artist: Gerrit Rietveld

Artwork description & Analysis: The Rietveld Schröder House is an important precursor to the Bauhaus-inspired International Style, as well as the only building designed in complete accordance with the De Stijl aesthetic. The house was commissioned in 1924 by Truus Schröder-Schrader, who intended for the new home to be grand and open ("without walls"), a veritable manifesto for how an independent modern woman should live her life. Featuring the typical De Stijl palette of primary colors, black, and white, the building emphasizes its architectural elements - slabs, posts, and beams - reflecting the movement's emphasis on form, construction, and function in its architecture and design. In other ways, too, the design represents a major departure from architectural convention and precedent. Inside, the rooms are constructed as movable entities with portable walls. In addition, Rietveld's design makes no attempt to interact with any of the surrounding buildings or roadways, suggesting its presence as an isolated structure focusing inward instead of outward.

Concrete, brick, and plaster, wood, steel girders - Utrecht, The Netherlands

Theo van Doesburg: Arithmetic Composition (1929-30)

Arithmetic Composition (1929-30)

Artist: Theo van Doesburg

Artwork description & Analysis: Made close to the end of van Doesburg's life, Arithmetic Composition reflects the artist's experimentation with abstract geometric shapes within a diagonal composition, resulting in a dimensional plane that would not have the same visual effect had the blocks been positioned vertically or horizontally. The work's diagonal configuration, combination of pure positive and negative space (black forms against white background), and incorporation of a curious backward "L" in the upper left corner, which consumes one block, create a sense of movement, making the shapes appear as if they are alternately moving toward and away from the viewer. However, unlike Mondrian's characteristic vertical-and-horizontal paintings, which lend themselves to the suggestion of figuration, van Doesburg here creates an abstract artwork totally devoid of the possibility of representation.

Oil on canvas - Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland

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De Stijl Image

Related Art and Artists

Pablo Picasso: Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)
Artwork Images

Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)

Movement: Cubism

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: By 1912, Picasso and Braque had exhausted their experiments with monochromatic color and with the illusion of low-relief sculpture across the surface of the canvas. In Still Life with Chair Caning, Picasso reintroduces color and goes further into experimentation with multiple perspectives. The image depicts a tabletop at a café; Picasso shows various objects on the table from multiple points of view including the knife, pieces of fruit, and wine glass that are in the top right of the image. Combining both paint and collage, Picasso also incorporates a piece of oilcloth (a cheap tablecloth) that resembles chair caning to reference to the type of seating common in a traditional café. The work is playful in that Picasso conveys the transparent quality of the tabletop by making it appear as if the caning of the chair can be seen through the glass. The spacing in the image, however, is even flatter than in previous works with no shading of objects, thus the café table is not depicted illusionistically as if in three dimensions, but conceptually.

Finally, Picasso paints the words "JOU" that are both the first three letters of the French word for newspaper (Journal), thus referring both to the act of reading a newspaper at a café (the folded newspaper itself can be seen on the left), and also spell the first letters of the French word for "play", signifying the playfulness and experimental quality of the image. Not only is this the first time that collaged elements were included in a work of high art, but it has been argued that the bits of collaged newspaper reference the unstable political situation in Europe and perhaps Picasso's own anarchist tendencies. Even though this work is now synonymous with Cubist experiments, it was seen by few people at the time because Picasso did not show his works at public exhibits, but rather displayed his ideas to like-minded (avant-garde) collaborators.

Oil on canvas - National Gallery, London

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectangles (1915)

Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectangles (1915)

Movement: Suprematism

Artist: Kazimir Malevich

Artwork description & Analysis: The three levels of Suprematism were described by Malevich as black, colored and white. Eight Red Rectangles is an example of the second, more dynamic phase, in which primary colors began to be used. The composition is somewhat ambiguous, since while on the one hand the rectangles can be read as floating in space, as if they were suspended on the wall, they can also be read as objects seen from above. Malevich appears to have read them in the latter way, since at one time he was fascinated by aerial photography. Indeed he later criticized this more dynamic phase of his Suprematist movement as 'aerial Suprematism,' since its compositions tended to echo pictures of the earth taken from the skies, and in this sense departed from his ambitions for a totally abstract, non-objective art. The uneven spacing and slight tilt of the juxtaposed shapes in Eight Red Rectangles, as well as the subtly different tones of red, infuse the composition with energy, allowing Malevich to experiment with his concept of "infinite" space.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Josef Albers: Homage to the Square: Dissolving/Vanishing (1951)
Artwork Images

Homage to the Square: Dissolving/Vanishing (1951)

Movement: Bauhaus

Artist: Josef Albers

Artwork description & Analysis: Josef Albers described his most famous series, Homage to the Square, as "platters to serve color." He began the series in 1949 and worked on it until his death in 1976. This early version demonstrates his systematic approach to investigating the optical effects of colors. With this series, Albers explored how colors change depending on their placement within the composition. Although the series was created several years after the Bauhaus movement, the work is typical of the experimental, modernist approach to form and color that underpinned Bauhaus teaching. Teachers at the school believed that colors and forms could be reduced to essentials and analyzed as separate components. That analysis would yield understanding about the character and effects of these components, and that understanding would result in better design.

In 1999, Howard Singerman wrote: "Over and over again in the teaching of art at the Bauhaus and in its teaching in America, the re-creation of design as vision is represented by the field or, more familiarmly, by the picture plane as the gridded, ordered, law-bound rectangle with which, and on which, art fundamentals begin. The rectange marks the teaching of modernism as the visual arts, displacing and containing the human figure that stood at the center of the academic fine arts."

Oil on masonite - Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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