Did you ever walk through Utrecht, wondering what all those colourful blocks on store windows mean? Or stumbled across the gigantic chair in the city centre? I took a crack at the famous Dutch design movement called ‘De Stijl’ to answer those questions!
What is ‘de Stijl’?
De Stijl (Dutch for “The style”) also known as Neoplasticism, was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 in Leiden. The proponents of the De Stijl movement – mainly artists and architects – advocated pure abstraction by reducing their work to vertical and horizontal lines, using only black, white and primary colours. De Stijl is visible in a range of media, including product design, fine art and architecture. It lasted around 14 years and affirmed the Netherlands’ most important place in European modernism.
Who are the most famous contributor?
There are three names you need to know when it comes to the art movement: the famous Dutch painter Piet Mondrian from Amersfoort, the artists Theo van Doesburg and the furniture maker and architect Gerrit Rietveld. Van Doesburg and Rietvelt were both born in Utrecht!
Let’s have a closer look at all three:
Piet Mondrian was not just one of the most modern artists of his day; he was also one of the most modern-minded people of the 20th century. Everywhere he went, he embraced contemporary life and the latest trends. From jazz to philosophy and from food trends to Disney movies. His most famous painting is called “Victory Boogie Woogie”. Pretty awesome name, in my opinion! He worked on it for the last 18 months of his life and what began with a handful of lines ended up as a complex pattern of no fewer than 574 tiny colour planes. In the 1960s, the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent used Mondrian’s approach as inspiration for a dress, which made Mondrian to the world wide known design icon he is today.
Theo van Doesburg met Mondrian in 1916. Both men were truly devoted to the creation of a purely abstract art, which led to the formation of the De Stijl group. Van Doesburg functioned as an editor and publisher of the group’s magazine, called “de Stijl”. Although he was mainly a painter and writer, it was van Doesburg’s idea to take the concept of de Stijl and convert it into a three-dimensional form, together with the architect Gerrit Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld is one of the most famous Dutch artists and furniture designers. He was actually the one who created the Red and Blue Chair as well as the Rietveld Schröder House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Utrecht!
He also started to design the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, which was, however, finished after his death.
Utrecht is celebrating 100 years of de Stijl
That’s right, de Stijl turned a 100 years in 2017! That is why you can find exhibitions, red and blue chairs as well as other marks of the artistic movement all over Utrecht. There is a big exhibition about “de Stijl meets Science” at de Uithof as well as a walking tour throughout Utrecht. Make sure you also pay the world famous Rietveld Schröder House a visit! You can find the complete program regarding “100 years de Stijl” here.
Do you want to learn more about the Dutch culture? If yes, please let me know in the comment section below! I would love to share my regular museums visits and discoveries of different Dutch artists with you!