IXD102 – Revolution & The Bauhaus

De Stijl

De Stijl, also known as neoplasticism, meaning ‘the style’ in Dutch, was an artistic movement centred in Holland, lasting from 1917 until 1931. It can be said that it was both an architectural movement as well as an Avant Garde movement. De Stijl is described as being about the utopian perception of spiritual harmony, an advocation of pure abstraction. The difference between this form of abstraction compared to the likes of cubism, being that they are very simple visual compositions; there was a reduction to just the essentials of form and colour. These works consisted primarily of horizontal and vertical lines, basic shapes like squares and rectangles as well as primary colours including black and white.

De Stijl was founded by the collection of several artists and architects with the most popular among them being Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg, with both embodying of the neoplasticism movement. These artists focused on the nature of form and colour, with De Stijl representing the essence of meaning within the world we live in, the most basic attributes of the world which they believed represented the true nature of reality itself as apposed to what our eyes tell us. De Stijl artist never framed their paintings because of the belief that these paintings are supposed to be continuous extensions of the world, they were supposed to be an intimate part of the surroundings.

Piet Mondrian


Theo Van Doesburg


Art Movements Born Out of Revolution

At the turn of the 20th century, Russia was ruled by the house of Romanov, a dynasty that ruled Russia for over 400 years. Social changes at the start of the 20th century meant a turbulent time for Russia, so much so that it ended the Zaarist autocratic government. Russia’s involvement in World War 1 indirectly lead to revolution. Its troops didn’t receive the supplies needed to face a well organised enemy armed with new industrialised weapons and this decimated the Russian army causing the soldiers to revolt.

By the end of World War 1, the art scene had changed forever. Affected by the experience of war, artists were also excited for the end of the corrupt old order with a new, fairer society taking its place. Many of these artists were devoted to creating propaganda for a new communist Russia.

October 1917, a radical Marxist socialist, Vladimir Lenin, rallied the masses together by the use of the slogan ‘Peace! Land! Bread!’ and began the soviet revolution as well as the union of the socialist republic (also known as the USSR). Lenin’s goal was to remove the upper and middle class from their political standing by terror and replace them with the worker class, giving them a leadership role within society.

When these worker parties took control, arts for the wealthier middle class had been rejected and the need for art as utility for working class became prevalent. This new movement was political inspired by the aesthetic of supremacism. The works of Kasimir Malevich later inspired constructivism, another abstract movement that focused on applying geometric design principles to all areas of life.

Kasimir Malevich 

In 1915, Kasimir Malevich pioneered an abstract style named Supermatism. It was an art movement that rejected imitation of natural shapes in favour of geometric forms as Malevich wanted to ‘free art from the burden of the object.’ He apposed materialism, believing that the only true reality is in the spiritual life and that feeling was best expressed through abstract form.

Malevich created the most radical symbol of modern art exploring the theme of non objective art, a black square on a white background. This could be interpreted as the black square representing feelings and the white background being the void beyond this feeling.

Malevich uses the traditional illusion of depth by overlapping flat geometric shapes and objects. Inspired by cubism and futurism found in Europe, Suprematism stands at the heart of architecture, typography, furniture and graphic design over 100 years later.

El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky was a leader in constructivism and was heavily influenced by Kasimir Malevich’s abstraction but instead applied the mathematical structure of architecture to his paintings. He called these paintings ‘Prouns’ which in Russian stand for ‘towards a new art.’

In comparison to Kasimir Malevich’s ‘Airplane Flying’ from above, Lissitzky’s ‘Proun 19D 1920’ has an added 3rd dimension. It is also prevalent that he was experimenting with different opacities and used different mediums such as pencil, varnish and tempera.

El Lissitzky was a socialist and believed that he should use his works to reach a mass audience, thus he began creating propaganda posters and lithographic prints for his political party. In a lithograph titled ‘beat the whites with a red wedge’ 1919, you can see a red triangle representing the Red Army’s emblem (Bolshevik Army) breaks through a white circle representing the old order. The typography used are slogans in Russian and are placed in a such a way that reinforce the dynamic movement within the piece. This is how Russian artists at the type used graphic elements as political symbols as they were designed for a illiterate public and intended to replace text for that reason. This would be the main form of communication on billboards and posters for the working class people of this time. Other than the use of propaganda, Lissitzky spread his idea through book design, with images now being read like words and typography just to be seen. His 61 page book also featured index tabs on the most right side with graphic elements indicating what each page consisted of. This book was named ‘For The Voice’ as it was intended to be read aloud.

‘Our March’ is one such poem in his book accompanied with graphical elements that reads ‘beat your drums on the squares of the riots turned read with the blood of revolution.’ The square on the left signifies the blood stained read square and the right page illustrates the soldiers marching and waving their red and black flags.

1917 Russian revolution

kasimir Malevich -1879 1936 – airplane flying

The story of the red square –

el lissitzky – ‘our March’ russische ausstellung – Russian exhibition b

Alexander rodchenko – 1891 – 1956 – kino glas posted 1924 –

franz Ferdinand 2004

generation x



avant garde



piet Mondrian  – 1918 he returned to France in 1938

red blue chair

Theo Van Doesburg 1883 1931 – succesful writing about art – first exhibition 1988 – amsterdam impressionist

high colour high detail

Abstract art

Analysing the form of the cow broke down the shapes and reconstructed them in squares in rectangles

alphabet Sam serif 1917

typograpgic work 1922

Bauhaus logo 1922

1923 door handle design

experimental program

armchair directors chair 1922

Johannes itten 1990-92

colour wheels and pallete

josef Albers 1888- 1976

interaction of cooour

Laszlo moholy-nagy

logo for Bauhaus press 1923

oskar schlemmer -m1888 1943’

wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944 composition 8 / transverse lines 1923 / yellow red blue – many works have been lost since the nazis came to power

visual analysis of a musical piece

Herbert Bayer – 1900 1985

the metropolitan

newspaper kiosk

thuringian banknote 1923

stencil typeface

universal typeface


The new typography – jar tschichold 1925


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *