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De Stijl
De Stijl

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Creating a universal, harmonic art that could be understood collectively

The Dutch De Stijl group, also referred to as the 'Neo-Plastic' style in art history, began in 1917 against the backdrop of a continent going to war. Only in neutral, relatively peaceful Holland , where the signs of war were very faint indeed, could such an avant-garde, peaceful artistic style emerge in this date in history. This group has an array of very famous names among them; Piet Mondrian, Vilmos Huszar, Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, the Belgian sculptor Georg Vantongerloo and the architects J.J.P Oud, Gerrit Rietveld and Jan Wils were all members of this style. The name is self-explanatory- 'The Style' referred to Mondrian's theory of the 'new art'; creating a universal language of harmony that could be translated into all the visual mediums- a 'collective' human form of communication. Much of the inspiration was this theory was taken from the mystiscm of the Eastern philosophies and the theological philosophies of the West.

Universalizing art by simplifying the means with which it is created

The painters of this group restricted themselves to depicting only forms and shapes that had inherit universal significance. These collectively understood shapes could then express universal order and accord, as this should be the natural function of all humans on earth. It was believed that the most rudimentary tools could convey meaning if only they were kept universal enough. Shining, bright primary colors of red, yellow and blue, primary geometric shapes such as squares, circles and triangles and 'non-colors' such as black, white and grey were all hallmarks of De Stijl paintings. The open spaces were consistently painted in shallow, homogonous color; lines were either utterly straight or pointed sharply. Figurative shapes were stripped of all recognizable qualities and the works became totally, radically abstract. Everything was boiled down to what they perceived to be its 'essence'. This was the first real method to emerge from the Neo-Plastic principles that would later gain strength with the Dada literature.

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