Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931

Artist biography

Dutch painter, architect, designer and writer. Little is known of his early life, but he began painting naturalistic subjects c. 1899. With the mobilisation of the Dutch forces following the outbreak of World War I, van Doesburg was sent to Tilburg near the Belgian front. Almost immediately he began to contemplate and organize a new periodical, De stijl: Maandblad voor nieuwe kunst, wetenschap en kultuur, not to be fully realised for another two years.

In 1916 van Doesburg participated in the foundation of the artists' associations De Anderen and De Sphinx. He met other like-minded artists, and even such architects as J. J. P. Oud. In August 1916 Oud commissioned him to design a stained-glass window. This commission was followed by numerous others in stained glass. He produced series of drawings from a single subject where the heavy, emphatic outline was progressively ‘essentialised' to a minimum of horizontal and vertical lines bounding coloured planes. This technique of painterly composition lent itself admirably to the creation of stained-glass windows.

He became increasingly involved in Dada activities, including the publication of four issues of Mécano (1922–3).

From 1925 van Doesburg intended to build a studio-house. It marked his transition from painter to architect. Unfortunately, before the house was finished, he died of a heart attack following a bout of asthma. Shortly before his death he published his first and only issue of Art concret and was involved in planning a new group of artists, the emergent Abstraction–Création.

Drachten, Streekmus. Smallingerland Bleekerhûs [drgs for Drachten proj.]
The Hague, Rijksdienst Beeld. Kst [sketches and architectural drgs]
Paris, Pompidou [drgs for Café de l'Aubette]


Article provided by Grove Art Online