Theo Van Doesburg, ‘Kleine Dada Sorieé’, 1923, Chowaiki & Co.

About Theo Van Doesburg

Theo van Doesburg, one of the founders and luminaries of the Dutch avant-garde group De Stijl (“The Style”) and a colleague of Piet Mondrian, propelled the development of abstract painting and non-representational art. He saw abstraction as art’s apotheosis. Van Doesburg’s work is similar to many of his contemporaries who worked within the styles of constructivism, suprematism, and the Bauhaus school; all drew inspiration from Euclidean formalism, primary colors, political radicalism, and the free exchange between design, architecture, and fine art. He later gradually shifted away from painterly abstraction, a change evident in works such as the gouache Sans titre (1925–26). The artist produced hard-edge paintings as early as World War I, but also made lyrical, gestural paintings as late as the mid-1920s. Van Doesburg’s beliefs about abstraction caused conflicts with fellow artists, leading him to compete with the Bauhaus school and fight with Mondrian. He died at the age of 47, while the development of non-representational painting was still in its infancy, but his influence remained profound.

Dutch, 1883-1931, Utrecht, Netherlands

About Kurt Schwitters

Associated with the Dada movement, painter, poet, and mixed-media artist Kurt Schwitters is best known for his collage and assemblage works in which he transformed appropriated imagery and text from print media into dynamic and layered compositions. Schwitters studied at the Dresden Academy of Art with Otto Dix and George Grosz, and after showing in Berlin in 1918 was introduced to Dadaists Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, and Jean Arp. It was at this time he began making assemblages from materials found discarded on the streets of his home city, Hannover, intending to reflect the ruined state of German culture; he called the works Merzbilder after the German word “Kommerz,” as in Merzbild 1A. The mental doctor (1919). Unlike the Berlin Dadaists, however, Schwitters’ main concern was art-making, not political activism, and he is remembered best for his innovative use of mixed-media and masterful sense of composition.

German, 1887-1948, Hannover, Germany