The six words I chose to describe De Stijl are: reductive, bare, flat, progressive, linear, and geometric.
- Reductive- The movement was all about reducing images and objects to their core elements, to simple geometric forms and primary colours (Eskilson 183). Artists sought to get to the essential root of the object and presented them as plainly, or in their view, as universal as possible.
- Bare- De Stijl makes use of negative space, it is never busy; works strategically use the space and make the most of it, often leaving large expanses of blank space as well. They leave this space in hopes of adhering to the golden ratio and such, to achieve this utopian composition.
- Flat- Pieces are often devoid of any sense of depth, save for a few where different layers or dimensions are implied by overlapping. For the most part, works are very two-dimensional and seem like they are just shapes on a flat plane, there is no three dimensionality; they are like abstract cartoons.
- Progressive- De Stijl artists hoped for this new utopia after WW1 and expressed their wishes through their art. They wanted to achieve this ‘universal harmony’ as shown through their art wherein subjects are shown in their most basic (aka universal) state (179). They wished to unite people as we all have the same foundational experiences; universality through completely abstraction.
- Linear- For the most part, De Stijl uses only straight precise lines; they seem machine-like and impersonal, which makes sense as they did appreciate the ‘modern machine world’. In the earlier works, all the lines are as straight as an arrow but later on, once influenced by Dada we do see some curved lines and rounded shapes.
- Geometric- De Stijl compositions are made almost entirely of geometric shapes. Early on, or in Mondrian’s opinion, they should only be rectilinear, but other artists took more liberties. But ‘decorations’ would often take form of shapes arranged in a particular manner, or the composition would be solely composed of shapes.
My design is based off two covers from the De Stijl publication that was used to spread and circulate the movement (Henkels). The movement did evolve and change throughout its lifetime and quite drastically, however it still kept the same beliefs. In its fourth year of publication, it switched formats and orientations; it went from the cover pictured in Figure 1 to the cover shown in Figure 2. They abandoned the woodcut blocks and instead opted for a more stark composition that relied more on the text. For my design, I wished to meld the two halves of De Stijl into one image. I took the two covers from the two different periods, picked the essential elements, and then meshed it all together. I kept the fact that the text was contained in these exact rectangles as well as making use of the negative space. The rectilinear shape of the composition is present; however, the elements lie to the side of the implied rectangle like in the 1921 cover compared to filling in the shape like in the 1919 cover. As for the type faces I chose the title to be similar to the type used in the earlier cover by forming the letters from rectangles and squares and making each character occupy the same space. As for the other typefaces, I opted for a sans serif, modern, grotesque, typeface, like those found on the 1921 cover. Although the journal opted for a more limited colour palette I took inspiration from Bart van der Leck’s salad oil advertisement and used all three primary colours plus black. I do note that the composition does not really resemble the well-known Mondrian paintings, but this is because the graphic design of De Stijl differed greatly from its fine art and architecture pieces. The publications had very different looks but expressed the same ideas and concepts as other works, it simply communicated it differently.
Doesburg, Theo van (Dutch painter, writer, and author, 1883-1931). Cover of the magazine ‘De Stijl’. 1926. Artstor, library-artstor-org.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/asset/SS35436_35436_19177090
Doesburg, Theo van, NB De Stijl, 1921. Art Journal. Artstor.
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design; A New History. 2nd ed., Yale University Press, 2012, pp. 179-83.
Henkels, H. “Stijl, De.” Grove Art Online. January 01, 2003. Oxford University Press,. Date of access 22 Feb. 2019, <http://www.oxfordartonline.com.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000081439>
Vilmos Huszar, (Artist), Dutch, born Hungary. 1884-1960. De Stijl. 1917. Artstor, library-artstor-org.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/asset/MOMA_5930005