Home Introduction Jesus Mary Apostles Saints Spiritual Themes Genesis Moses Deuteronomic History Educating Arte Full new Screen

Early Abstract Painting

Abstract painting is a form of art that does not represent recognisable objects. It does not imitate nature. Its name was given in contrast with pictures that represented natural scenes, scenes with landscapes, objects and people and which therefore are called figurative paintings. Abstract art contains no content matter.
Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich created abstract art in Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century (around 1910). Other movements worked at the same time in France, in the Netherlands and in many Middle European countries. Early Abstract art evolved in many schools and trends, which reached abstraction from several directions. We present a few important movements hereafter.


Suprematism was practically a one-man movement in painting, founded in 1913. It was based on the ideas of the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935). Malevich gave the name UNOVIS, which meant "new art" to the Academy of Vitebsk where he worked and that he had taken over from Marc Chagall. He refused the traditional images of figurative art. He painted only in elementary shapes such as the straight line or the square or evolution of these shapes, such as the rectangle and the trapezium. These forms were not to be found in nature, and Malevich considered these elemental non-biological, geometric shapes as representing the supremacy of mind over nature. The white background of the canvas represented the cosmos. The compositions of the elemental shapes were for Malevich man’s longing and search for the mystery of the universe.
Malevich wrote that art should be free of influences and that art was by definition meant to be totally useless. With this view, Malevich came in the 1920s in conflict with the utilitarian views of Russian Communism.
Malevich painted such famous pictures as "Black Square" and finally his "Suprematist Composition: White on White" in 1918, by which he declared having reached the ultimate point of abstraction. After this picture Malevich returned to figurative painting.


Constructivism was a form of abstract art, founded in Russia somewhat later than Malevich’s Suprematism, in 1913. Constructivism was more a trend in design than in painting. Its theorists proposed the idea that art had to paint the objects of modern technology and industry. Artists had to support the physical and intellectual needs of society. These ideas remained in line with the ideology of Russian Communism, based on utilitarianism and on the promotion of art for the proletariat. Constructivism was principally applied for public monuments, which were to be constructed from elements by the new industrial materials and processes. The same principles were however used in painting.
The movement was also called Proun. This word was derived from Malevich’s Unovis. Proun then could mean Pro-Unovis and thus "for the new art". Constructivism was founded in Russia, but was later applied throughout the whole world and also much later than the Russian Revolutionary period.
Painters and sculptors were Naum Gabo, Laszló Moholy-Nagy, Eliezer Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Vladimir Tatlin.

De Stijl

"De Stijl", or the "Neoplastic Movement" as it was originally called, was a Dutch art trend founded by Theo Van Doesburg, Piet Mondriaan and the architect Gerrit Rietveld around 1917. Other artists that joined were Bart Van Der Leck, George Vantongerloo and Vilmos Huszar.
"De Stijl" was the name of a magazine in which the artists of the "Neoplastic Movement" explained the principles of their art. De Stijl was influenced by the Neo-Platonic philosophy of the Dutch mathematician Schoenmaekers and by the architectural concepts of Hendrik Petrus Berlage and Frank Lloyd Wright. The origins of the movement were philosophical, and based on the idea that art had to reflect the order of the universe. "De Stijl" implied that a certain, defined style was to be used in painting, sculpture and architecture. The style consisted of clear lines (horizontal and vertical only), primary colours and elementary shapes (triangles, rectangles, circles, cubes, etc.). This was called a "plastic grammar", and hence came the name of neo-plasticism.
Three phases can be discerned. From 1916 to 1921 was the experimental, pioneering period in Holland. From 1921 to 1925 was a period of maturity and of internationalisation. From 1925 to 1931, the art transformed and finally disappeared around 1931. The movement virtually stopped with Van Doesburg’s death.
The artists of "De Stijl" believed that art had to strive for total harmony, order and clarity. "De Stijl" proposed very geometric, strict lines and shapes and assembled its images from square forms. Straight vertical and horizontal lines with pure primary colours were used. The pictures were devoid of biological forms, and the painters and architects emphasised economy, functionality and elementary forms.


Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in Weimar. It became in the 1920s a centre of modern design art in Germany. According to its theorists, art and design were to be integrated in daily life. The philosophy of the Bauhaus was socialist inspired. Walter Gropius wanted artists to create pieces of art that were practical and not expensive. The Bauhaus style was simple, geometric, and rational. In painting it was a school for decoration and design.
The German Nazis closed the Bauhaus in 1933, because it came to present for them a source of communist intellectualism.
Painters that worked at the Bauhaus were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Hans Albers, and Moholi-Nagy.


Orphism was a tendency towards abstract painting that lasted in Paris from 1911 to about 1914. The movement received its name by Guillaume Appolinaire in 1912. Appolinaire called "orphic cubism" the art form that evolved from Cubism to completely abstract forms.
Orphism relied on form and colour only to communicate meaning and emotion. Orphists tried to express various states of consciousness through non-figurative painting. The artists sought to represent the inner world through undulating images. Circular forms were the basic structures of Orphist painting. Orphists expressed a mystic intuition of the inner nature of objects. They started first from figurative images, and then evolved to abstract shapes. Their evolution to abstract art was a means to reveal the content of the inner consciousness of the artist.
As Orphism we also consider a movement called "Synchromism". This was a style that was contemporary to Orphism, and that was very similar to it, but its painters claimed it to be an independent evolution from Orphism.
Synchronism painters were Stanton McDonald-Wright (1890-1933) and Morgan Russell (1886-1953).
Orphist artists were Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay-Teck, and Frantisek Kupka.


Futurism was a radical, noisy rejection of traditions, values and institutions in the Italy of the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Italian artists wanted to be part of the avant-garde of the new artists in Europe and were looking for own directions. The poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) invented it in 1909, and he wrote about its principles in a manifesto published in the Parisian newspaper "Le Figaro" first, then in Milan.
The first manifesto was co-signed by the painters Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), Carlo Carrà (1881-1966), Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) and Gino Severini (1883-1966).
The movement originated in Milan. Later, Umberto Boccioni declared a "Manifesto of Futurist Painters" in 1910, and various other manifestoes would follow.
Marinetti and his followers decreed that art should break with the past and celebrate the glories of modern speed and industrial realisations. Thus, the impression of dynamism, universal vibrations, and speed were central in their work. Modern machines, transport and communication fascinated the Futurists. They wanted to represent dynamism and rapid movement, speed, the influence of nature and the environment on objects (which Balla called the "compenetration of plans"), vortices, in sharp lines and angles. The Futurists often imitated the effects of motion in their pictures by painting the same object several times next to each other.
A work of art had to be aggressive, new and bold in form, with bright colours. The first technique of the Futurists was Divisionism, as they had learned from Gaetano Previati. The pictures had to show broken cubist forms, which had represented motion through abstract patterns. Idea was put before style and the growth of technology was to be expressed. Futurist paintings were among the first abstract pictures.
Futurism culminated around 1925 and ended with the end of World War II, when Marinetti died. Members of Futurism were Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Roberto Marcello Baldessari, Mario Chiattone, Virgilio Marchi, Enrico Prampolini, Benedetta Cappa, and others.


Vorticism was mainly an English art trend. A painter, Wyndham Lewis, who edited a magazine called BLAST, founded it in 1914 in London. The poet Ezra Pound gave the name. Some of the artists of Vorticism came from the English Camden Town Group, founded in 1911. These artists came together in Walter Sickert’s workshop in North-London. Many of their subjects were taken from the labour life of London and rendered in the harsh colours of Vincent Van Gogh or Paul Gauguin.
Vorticism was influenced by Cubism, Futurism and by photography. Vorticism extended the emphasis on speed of Futurism into the depths of space. Vorticists created an intense perspective of abstract forms directed towards a concentrating point, a vortex. Painters were Wyndham Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Frederick Etcholls, and David Bomberg.

Cercle et Carré

"Cercle et Carré" was an international artistic group founded in Paris in 1929 by the critic Michel Seuphor and the painter Joaquin Torres-Garcia. Most of its members were geometric abstractionists or even Constructivists like Piet Mondriaan, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, and Willi Baumeister. The group did not last for long, stopped already in 1930, and edited only three times its magazine. Most artists of the group went over to "Abstraction – Création".


"Abstraction-Création" was a name given to an association of a melting pot of abstract artists, in Paris from 1931 to 1936. The movement was founded in 1931, edited yearbooks called in French "Abstraction-Création, Art non-figuratif", and had as its objective to organise manifestations of non-figurative art. The movement was formed in Paris, but members and associated artists that adhered to the movement lived in many countries of Europe. It was a broad forum for many tendencies of abstract art. A similar American movement, called "American Abstract Artists", was founded in 1936 and this movement was active until around 1946.
The group "Abstraction-Création" consisted mainly of painters of diverse abstracts styles (of geometric art as well as of expressive abstract art) who lived in Paris, but among who were many non-French artists. It assembled as well Cubists (Albert Gleizes), biomorphic abstracts (Hans Arp), Orphists (Frantisek Kupka) as painters of more geometric abstraction (group "Cercle et Carré" with Piet Mondriaan). Painters were Hans Arp, Frantisek Kupka, Jean Hélion, Albert Gleizes, Auguste Herbin, Naum Gabo, Georges van Tongerloo, Katarzyna Kobro and many others.

Middle European schools

In many Middle European countries avant-garde groups formed which had as its members writers, poets, architects and painters who were very much dedicated to innovation in art. These schools began with abstract and expressionist visual art, but soon evolved also into abstract art. We mention the groups Skupina, Osma (the Eight), Mánes and Devetsil in Prague of Czechia. In Poland came the groups Bunt in Poznán, Jung Idysz in Lodz, and Blok and a.r. in Warsaw. Ma was a group of Budapest in Hungary, Contimporanul of Bucharest in Rumania. Tank was a group in Slovenia. Many of the painters in these groups were pioneers of abstract art.

Early Abstract Art in general

Early abstract art emphasised vertical, horizontal, slanting and jagged lines as well as the use of the psychological effects of colour. The abstract forms were usually well delineated and designed to harmony.

Early Abstract artists emphasised simple shapes like the point, square, circles, and rectangle. Gradually more complex forms were sought. The artists experimented many years with the arrangement of the elementary shapes and of lines on the canvas. They mostly sought to find the theoretical rules of compositions in these elementary forms, and generally they aspired to harmony. But they also explored the processes of the breaking of harmony and balance, and its effects on viewers.

The first Abstract artists explored the psychological effects of coloured areas that were arranged in various orders on the canvas. They combined cool colours with warm colours, and discovered the contrasts in abstract forms between large areas of complementary and secondary colour hues.

The content was purely abstract, non- figurative.

Volume and space were mostly left unexplored by the early abstract artists. This was an art that emphasised two-dimensional shapes. There were notable exceptions to this statement, such as the Vorticists and the Futurists.

The young abstract painting was one of the most dramatic changes in the arts. It was in essence only an evolution in the handling of content in that it refused any content. Thereby this art form broke a tradition of thousands if years of the visual arts.
We stated earlier that the Cubists prepared abstract art and the two reformers therefore must be Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Nevertheless, many different developments were contemporary to Cubism, and these were all not derived from Cubism.
It is remarkable how the very first abstracts like Malevich, Kandinsky, Kupka and Mondriaan took this art so early about as far as it could go. All other subsequent painting was certainly interesting and still offered new views and new experimentation, but all these developments could not be called revolutionary anymore. Of course, once an artist leaves content behind, the rest is merely a probing into combinations of lines, form and colour.
The twentieth century was the century of abstract art. It was the century of many art forms, but it will be remembered mainly as the abstract century by the sheer volume and the importance of the abstract work that was accomplished in its various experiments.

Flowering Apple Tree

Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944). Modern Art Collection of the Gemeentemuseum. The Hague. 1912.

All the paintings we present in this chapter were precursors or early examples of abstract art. All the painters died before, in or just after World War II. They thus do not belong to the second half of the century. They are all very well represented in Dutch museums and our examples all come from two city-museums of the Netherlands dedicated to modern art. The paintings are abstract art, but they are among the first such paintings ever made and some of them still have an underlying idea of an object or a figure.
The paintings were made around 1912, with one interesting exception. Cubism had existed for only something like five years. The Cubist experiments were first only well known in Paris so that most of the developments of the paintings we show happened independently of Cubism. We must bear in mind that a painting like the "Still-Life. Dead Birds" of Pablo Picasso was also made in 1912.
The experiments of Cubism slightly preceded early abstract art, but the artists of whom we show paintings here must also have been thinking of content-less paintings since a few years, so that abstract art developed alongside Cubism.

The references to real-life objects remain obvious in Mondriaan’s painting, in Luigi Russolo’s picture and also in Robert Delaunay’s work. The paintings of Kasimir Malevich and of El Lissitzky are totally abstract, but these are also the later paintings. By 1915 all the painters we talk of in this chapter had reached full abstraction as an art form in itself. Two main names of abstract art, painters that have played dominant roles in the road to abstraction, are not mentioned here and yet they would merit separate chapters. These are Frantisek Kupka and Wassily Kandinsky. We presented however one or other of their works in the opening chapters of this book.

Piet Mondriaan started painting figurative pictures. The Gemeentemuseum of The Hague has an earlier picture of Mondriaan representing a very figurative red tree painted against a blue background. The choice of colours is maybe weird, but this painting should in no way shock any viewer that knows also the Fauvist style. The trunk only of this tree is red; the tree’s branches are all black. The tree is painted without any foliage, as we see trees in a European winter, when the trees have shed off their leaves. The tree consists of a trunk and ample branches, which widen open and cover the canvas luxuriously in a myriad of black curved and jagged lines.

Mondriaan’s "Flowering Apple Tree" contains still a memory of such a tree. We can distinguish the vertical trunk in the middle, and horizontally from that trunk branch out many horizontal lines. The branches and the lines of the trunk are all black, as was the case with the tree in winter of Mondriaan’s earlier figurative picture. Mondriaan now however painted all the lines in a curved movement, in forms that resemble the leaves of the tree. Moreover, he used a few green lines beneath. Mondriaan seems to have remembered also some of the whiteness of the fogs and snow and frost of winter. His tree is again leafless but for the branches in leaf-forms.
Mondriaan’s painting can almost only be understood in reference to earlier figurative works, and we can see how the painter reached abstraction by retaining just a few essential intuitions of forms of the real-life object that was the tree. The colours Mondriaan used also keep some reference to a feeling of nature, to the concept of winter and its barrenness, and at the same time to the delicate whitish-orange hues of the blossoms of an apple tree.

In this painting of Piet Mondriaan, we find already an emphasis on vertical and horizontal directions, even though the lines are mostly curved and retain a sense of organic, living nature. Mondriaan would soon, from 1914-1915 on, radically abandon these organic lines. He would abandon the capriciousness and freedom of relations between natural forms. He would then paint over and over again variations of his now famous paintings that consist of thick black horizontal and vertical lines, between which he would generally put white and only here and there a rectangle of pure colours of red, blue and yellow. These straight lines represented the ultimate truth for him and also the immutable aspect of space. The straight perpendicular lines indeed give an impression to the viewer of being forever and solidly fixed in an infinite space. Therefore, the lines indicate and evoke space, the more so as they intersect and are painted one above the other. But Mondriaan’s space is not the growing and ever-changing space of nature but the transfixed space of the human idea of eternal harmony and equilibrium. Mondriaan expressed this in 1919 as, "The immutable is beyond all misery and all the happiness of life: it is equilibrium. Through the immutable in us, we are united with all things; the mutable destroys our equilibrium, limits us, and separates us from all that is other than us. It is from this unconscious, from the immutable that art comes G86 ."

Mondriaan’s "Apple Tree" is an example of the process of abstraction at work, not unlike the process of Picasso’s Cubism. Mondriaan had already set one step further in the process and would sooner arrive at a more total, purist view of abstraction. The process was entirely intellectual and formalist, not directed by emotions. In a sense, Mondriaan installed a new Academicism based on strict rules of construction.

Circular Forms, Sun and Moon

Robert Delaunay (1885-1941). Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam. 1912-1913.

Whereas Mondriaan’s painting shows his beginning reliance on horizontal and vertical lines, Robert Delaunay’s work is all circling movement.
Delaunay took the sun and the moon, both circles, as the basis for his work. We sense while looking at his painting that abstraction was already proceeding completely away from any figurative representation, since the reference to the sun and the moon is only a reference to a vague inspiration. In Delaunay’s work, the sun might be to the left and the smaller moon to the right, partly hidden as the moon usually is. The concept of sun and moon could be found in the brightness of the colours in the two core circles. The centre of the sun is whitish rosy and the moon is a pale yellow.

In between these centres Delaunay painted a warm transition of various shades of red and around the sun also widening and darkening blue circles. The moon seems closer to the viewer as its yellow and red hues attract the view, whereas the sun seems to recede away from the viewer due to its blue and green circles. These last colours create a feeling of distance, and Delaunay also painted several circles around the sun as if in a receding movement. Such widening circles are not to be found in his picture around the moon. Here, the circles cover each other as if in a battle and they do not convey a sense of movement, but rather a sense of a local conflict. The moon is closer to the viewer than the sun, whose intense bright light is more of a danger, farther away and hence more mysterious.
While Mondriaan’s work is all in frozen colours, Delaunay’s painting is all warm hues. For Robert Delaunay the changing colour was the essence of life and of reality. The light of nature creates colours. So we find here, in an early abstract work of Delaunay, how this artist came to his later fully abstract work of coloured circles, which bore no connection anymore to themes such as the sun and the moon, or to any other figurative object. Delaunay used circles and round forms always in endless permutations in his work, and so did mostly also his wife Sonia Delaunay-Terk. These round forms are not only the exact contrary of the straight lines of Piet Mondriaan, but also the contrary of the straight lines of the interceding planes of vision of the Cubists.

Robert Delaunay had found with his circling forms another approach to abstraction. He emphasised colour, but his hues are very different from the hard, disharmonious colours of the Fauves. Delaunay overall favoured warm, harmonious combinations of soft colours, and his work is characterised by shades of red, orange and yellow. The poet Guillaume Apollinaire called this kind of painting "Orphism", and that name has stuck. The earliest Orphist was probably Frantisek Kupka, whose "Amorpha, Fugue in two Colours", and a series of "Discs of Newton" of 1911/1912, are among the first abstract works of the Orphists. Kupka experimented in a series of images of circling motifs. Delaunay did the same with a series of "Sun and Moon" paintings.
With circles, both men tried to create inner feelings, vibrations in their mind similar to the vibrations of the circling movements on the canvas.
Like all early abstracts, Kupka and Delaunay and Mondriaan were trying to find a new spiritualism through a transcendence of nature proceeding into abstract forms. They were searching for combinations of forms that appealed to the mind more than scenes of reality and of nature. They hoped thus to reveal some aspect of the consciousness of people. The circles were not unlike waves that oscillated deep into man’s mind, and there created feelings in a mystic way. Kupka and Delaunay were after such feelings.
Abstract art is now more and more associated with the materialistic modern world, so its may come as something of a surprise that the drive of the early abstracts was far more spiritual than materialistic.


Luigi Russolo (1885-1947). Modern Art Collection of the Gemeentemuseum. The Hague. 1912.

The feelings of waves that vibrated into man inspired the Italian Futurists almost at the same moment and independently. A good example of this kind of painting is Luigi Russolo’s ‘Revolution’. The Futurists represented movement, speed, agility, and the development of modern machinery that was always in motion, ever spinning around an axis and turning in wheels. The Futurists arrived almost at abstraction by the representation of abstract patterns that were often the reverberations created by an object rapidly moving through the atmosphere.

In "Revolution", a group of people advances. They are running and gesticulate in a forward movement, all in the same way. The form of their group is that of a sharp triangular wedge that pierces through the air. The men are running; so Russolo painted their successive positions as if caught by a high-speed camera. The successive images are superimposed somewhat and seen one next to the other. The people are a red force of energy, and that force reverberates through the air. Shockwaves are created in space. These waves are red too, and we see them propagate in the air, pushed forward as the running crowd creates them. Beneath the waves is a pattern of black rectangles on a dark blue background. This gives an impression of the ground plan of a town, so that the group of people and the ensuing vibrations seem to hover in the air like an aeroplane flying in the sky over a town. The shock of the mass of people opens space in front of them and forces the space away. The shock is incandescent, so Russolo painted here bright green and yellow colours, to indicate the shock of the revolution.

Luigi Russolo’s painting is not entirely abstract since the silhouettes of the figures can still be recognised, but the patterns of the waves and of the background are abstract, and we must note that the men of the revolution are reduced to their most simple expression as never shown before. This painting dates from 1912 also. The Italian Futurists were thus very close to abstraction in a school of thought that developed alongside Cubism and Orphism.

Supremus No. 50

Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935). Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam. 1915.

The last two paintings I present on early abstract art were made by two major representatives of the Russian avant-garde art.
Kasimir Malevich started to paint in the Impressionist and Expressionist way. He soon developed his own ideas of the theoretical importance of elementary shapes. He did not proceed from figuration to abstraction, but rather came directly to abstraction through a theory of the particularities of elementary geometrical forms. Squares, circles, rectangles, are all shapes that are the product of the human mind only. These shapes are not to be found in nature. Malevich though to find in these simplest of forms the supremacy of man over nature. His composition "Supremus No. 50" shows merely a number of rectangles, squares and triangles in a combination of several lengths and widths. It is thus an eminently Suprematist work.

"Supremus No. 50" is a tranquil, quiet, calm painting. Malevich brought on the canvas a number of horizontal, long, red rectangles that seem to float in space. For Malevich the white-grey canvas represented the cosmos, in which the individual elementary forms existed. The red rectangles seem to be fixed in space, however, by a long vertical rectangle in black colour. This black vertical shape brings equilibrium and stability in the painting. Moreover, the vertical rectangle is traversed by another, thinner yet equally black and long, almost horizontal rectangle. The two black rectangles form a cross, although not the cross we are used to from religious paintings. Malevich experimented with images of black crosses on a white canvas, maybe in an attempt to grasp something of the mysterious attraction of the religious sign as an abstract form. In his painting "Supremus No. 50", a permutation of the cross underlies the red rectangles and thus creates a feeling of depth in various phases of perception.
It is tempting to think of Communism at seeing the red rectangles above the black cross, but any such connection is pure conjecture.

Malevich’s painting is stable and tranquil, but not without joy. Chaos is around also, as separate, individual triangles and squares, shorter in length hover around the main elements. This gives a sense of dynamism and movement and of a background tension, as would be present during a revolution. These individual non-connected elements add to a feeling of lightness in the abstract painting. With such pictures Malevich proved that purely abstract elements could create emotions and impressions in viewers as had not been thought possible before him, and thereby proving some assertions of his theories.

Composition Proun GBA No. 4

Eliezer Lissitzky (1890-1941). Modern Art Collection of the Gemeentemuseum. The Hague. 1920-1923.

Eliezer Markovitch Lissitzky, commonly called El Lissitzky, was more a product of the Russian Communist Revolution than Malevich. Malevich had developed his ideas many years before 1914, and he was called in by the Russian revolutionaries as an avant-garde view that could supersede religious art. Lissitzky believed not only in the Revolution, but also in a Communist society that was to build an orderly future for the masses. This construction of society was to be ordered, calmly devised to a purpose, and the architecture of that society as its art had to reflect the orderly progression. There are no small individual elements scattered over the canvas in Lissitzky’s work, as we have seen in Malevich’s painting. We see now a very precise ordering of harmonious, connected and superimposed simple elements, set together by a very geometrical and balanced mind.

There is a horizontal black rectangle as the lowest plane in El Lissitzky’s painting. A grey rectangle of almost the same width is placed square on top of that black one. The result is like an instrument to measure off right angles. Then, another harmonious variation of the grey rectangle, now a whitish long rectangle covers the two former planes. There is therefore a progression from dark, more distant colours to the closer white. With these three forms, Lissitzky reached an almost perfect balance, and this painting thus inspires a cold quietness of the architect or mathematician. Finally, a decorative element is added in the shape of a narrow horizontal grey lath, underscored by a lower black line as if to give the lath some thin volume. This narrow lath is again brought to balance by a narrow vertical red line and both are kept into place by a darker underlying rectangle.

El Lissitzky played diligently on the strong sense of stability and ease that is induced in viewers by vertical and horizontal lines, and he frequently balanced these lines by each other in his painting. His construction of rectangles is very harmonious in the progression of the various lengths and widths. The thin lath introduces some sense of lightness also in the picture, but it is as counter-balanced as are the other forms. This picture could be the ground plan of a building set before the open, grey space of a courtyard. Lissitzky’s picture resembles the stacking of prisms of a building in architecture. Lissitzky’s paintings indeed give an impression of this means of construction in a deliberate architecture, and that was conformant to the name of the school to which he belonged.

We have now seen five paintings of early abstract works, and explained some of the means and principles by which abstraction was reached. Several different roads led to abstraction, some starting from figuration. These young abstract works have a spontaneity that is very appealing, and make them art that is still genius work and can be appreciated as universal art.

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: November 2010
Book Next Previous

Copyright: René Dewil - All rights reserved. The electronic form of this document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source as 'René Dewil - The Art of Painting - Copyright'. No permission is granted for commercial use and if you would like to reproduce this work for commercial purposes in all or in part, in any form, as in selling it as a book or published compilation, then you must ask for my permission formally and separately.