De Stijl was a circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals

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Introduction to De Stijl

Originally a publication, De Stijl was founded in 1917 by two pioneers of abstract art, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. De Stijl means style in Dutch. The magazine De Stijl became a vehicle for Mondrian’s ideas on art, and in a series of articles in the first year’s issues he defined his aims and used, perhaps for the first time, the term neo-plasticism. This became the name for the type of abstract art he and the De Stijl circle practised.

Other members of the group included Bart van der Leck, Vantongerloo and Vordemberge-Gildewart, as well as the architects Gerrit Rietveld and JJP Oud. Mondrian withdrew from De Stijl in 1923 following Van Doesburg’s adoption of diagonal elements in his work. Van Doesburg continued the publication until 1931.

De Stijl had a profound influence on the development both of abstract art and modern architecture and design.

Further reading

A brief history of abstract art with Turner, Mondrian and more
Read our feature which gives quick tour through the history of abstract art and Mondrian’s place within it.

De Stijl artists in focus

Theo van Doesburg

Chief spokesman of the De Stijl group, he wanted to establish a visual vocabulary comprised of elementary geometrical forms comprehensible by all and adaptable to any discipline.

Theo van Doesburg, 'Counter-Composition VI' 1925
Theo van Doesburg
Counter-Composition VI 1925
Oil on canvas
support: 500 x 500 mm
frame: 690 x 691 x 80 mm
Purchased 1982

Artist biography
Read Tate’s biography on Theo Van Doesburg. 

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde
This exhibiiton which was at Tate Modern at 2010 presented the first major exhibition in the UK devoted to the Dutch artist and pivotal figure of the European avant-garde. Read the room guide and see what artworks were on display.

Avant-garde apostle
This article takes a chronological look at Van Doesburg and how he played a key role in the international exchange of ideas of the early twentieth-century avant-garde.

Piet Mondrian

Mondrian painted only in horizontal and vertical lines with a restricted colour palette of primary colours. His felt that his non-representational, geometric works reflected a greater, universal truth beyond everyday appearance.

Mondrian developed the language of abstract painting as we know it today.
Curator Michael White 

Curator Michael White discusses how Mondrian hoped his paintings and, by extension his studios, would not only create dynamic spatial relationships but even point to a new way of living.

Recreating Mondrian’s Paris studio at Tate Liverpool
Architect Frans Postman discusses why he recreated Mondrian’s Paris studio and how it was ‘the most impressive interior of the De Stijl period.’

The Mondrian guide to life
This guide looks at how De Stijl took over his life as well as his art.  

How to spin the colour wheel, by Turner, Malevich and more
This article looks at how artists have been influenced by colour theory including Mondrian, who went back to the colour fundamentals by only using primary colours. 

Other perspectives

The sound of Mondrian playlist
Get a feel for the ’boogie-woogie’ beat of Mondrian’s paintings with our playlist. 

Nicholas Fox Weber on finding the real Mondrian
Mondrian biographer Nicholas Fox Weber discusses what it is about the Dutch modernist painter that captures him and the reasons why the artist’s personal life has remained so elusive.

De Stijl in detail

Richard Hamilton, 'Putting on de Stijl' 1979
Richard Hamilton
Putting on de Stijl 1979
Collotype in 6 colours and screenprint from 6 stencils on Ivorex paper
image: 300 x 420 mm
Presented by Klaus Anschel in memory of his wife Gerty 2008© The estate of Richard Hamilton

The Grid as a Checkpoint of Modernity
This essay argues that the grid can still be an effective device in radical art practices as long as it is not perceived as an escapist structure that does not address the topics of today. 

Marlow Moss: Space, Movement, Light
Read this essay on Marlow Moss, an artist who gained recognition from Mondrian because she was augmenting his language of neoplasticism. Moss was invited to join Abstraction-Création as a founder member along with Mondrian, Vantongerloo and Theo van Doesburg. 

Abstraction and Interpretation Study Day video recordings
This study day focuses on the interpretation of abstract art,from de stijl and Russian suprematism to minimalism and beyond. 

Related glossary terms

Neo-plasticism, modernismAbstraction-Création, concrete art, cubism, abstract art, Cercle et Carré, non-objective art