Theo van Doesburg

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It’s surprising for many to see that one of the most daring and and influential artists of the avant garde, Theo van Doesburg, was often overshadowed by his contemporaries like Piet Mondrian. This can be attributed to the fact that Van Doesburg was younger and less keen to live in the public eye. He let his work do most of the talking for him.  The Dutch artist was instrumental in introducing the artistic style movement ‘De Stijl’ to art and his geometrical designs have influenced a generation of graphic designers to this day. Van Doesburg had a very conceptual approach to art and developed a very unique geometrical style of painting. He came up with a famous theory that reality could be tapped into as a medium of communication.

Born as Christian Emil Marie Kupper in 1883 in Utrecht, Netherlands to a photographer father and homemaker mother, Van Doesburg took up his name from his step father who played a vital role in upbringing Van Doesburg. After short stints in acting and singing Van Doesburg decided to take up painting full time as a profession. In all his works Van Doesburg is trying to show the audience that there is a spiritual level in paintings which originates from the mind rather than everyday life. Van Doesburg was a little bit of everything from being a painter to an art critic, designer, actor, singer, typographer, architect – all those things and more. Hia foray into all these things maybe one of the reasons his work was noticed late and the world discovered his artistic genius years after his death. There is a strong element of three dimensions to his works, which was well ahead of its time for that era.  There is no doubt that Van Doesburg had a thrilling spatial imagination, he reconstructed the dance hall in Strasbourg titled Cinebal. The design was definitely well ahead of its time – which is way it comes as no surprise that Van Doesburg was quite influential for the next generation of designers and architects. The hall is filled with bright colored symmetrical triangles and hollow rectangles. In many ways it represents a dimension within a dimension and is considered one of Van Doesburg’s masterpieces. In fact his dynamic aesthetic sense had a significant impact on contemporary interior design and decorations. Van Doesburg also rote numerous publications on De Stijl, Dadasim and Elementarism which didn’t win him many fans but it’s not like Van Doesburg wrote for anyone’s pleasure but his own.

If anything there was restlessness associated with Van Doesburg as he wanted to bring in the concepts of power and purity to modern art in those times. Moving away from his three dimensional paintings, he also did a self portrait of himself in a hat. It’s a stark difference from his signature works, the portrait is actually a set of three portraits featuring Van Doesburg in a straw hat with each portrait featuring a different expression. Today the painting can be found at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Despite his small output of paintings, Theo van Doesburg influence today is quite strong and he is regarded as one of the most important abstract painters of the 20th century.

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