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"theosophy" Tag


Mondrian, Rietveld, Theosophy.. wait, what???


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Have you ever heard about theosophy?

We didn’t either, but check out this article because then you’ll know how it influenced Mondrian and Rietveld’s work.

 

Theosophy- what does this even mean?

 

“There is no religion higher than truth.”

 

theosophy

 

It is a unity of Religion, Science, and Philosophy that combines a variety of belief systems in its search for an underlying universal harmony. Basically, it is everything, therefore you have to be very focused to understand what specific ideas it defends and how is this shown or practiced in art and life in general.
It is also a doctrine of religious philosophy and mysticism (so it isn’t a religion itself), but holds that all religions contain elements of truth.
Theosophical writers hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality and that direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition, meditation, revelation, or some other state transcending normal human consciousness.
Theosophy has influenced many artists among whom were Wassily Kandinsky,  Piet Mondrian, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, Rietveld (and some others from De Stijl movement) and Pollock. This beliefs played a crucial role in the work of this artists, whose works were seemed to search for the understanding of spirituality.
All in all, theosophy seeks to integrate perception and thought, the natural world and the spiritual work, science and religion.

 

How did theosophy influence De Stijl

 

De Stijl magazine was publishing the group’s design work combined with theoretical writings which also contained mysticism. Members were deeply influenced by theosophy which was also an important part of Bauhaus. You can see that in the way they rejected any form of naturalism in favour of a formal abstraction that connected the movement with Russian Constructivism.

De Stijl group wanted to create new kind of art, architecture and design in order to raise a disillusioned humanity from the horrors caused by World War 1 and as many artists throughout Europe, they attempted to liberate the arts from tradition. They wanted to change art from individual to ultimate, universal. Their vision was based on deconstructivism – reducing the universe to fundamental elements and forms – the vertical and horizontal lines became the symbols of universal harmony, to which were added primary colours red, blue and yellow along with black, white and gray (considered non-colours). Even if you don’t understand the deeper meaning of theosophy, this are the things you can recognize in artworks of De Stijl movement.
Anyways, members were aiming towards geometrical and technical art which would be an experience as a whole. They were trying to give art a spirit of forms and mystification.
What was important for them was purity in architecture, the absence of organic and personal forms. Like theosophists, members of De Stijl believed in the presence of deeper spiritual reality, whereas a direct contact is established through a state transcending normal human consciousness. They brought a sense of material, intellectual and spiritual unity to art, architecture and design.

 

Mondrian as a member of De Stijl

 

theo-van-doesburg-neoplasticism-composition-vii-the-three-graces1917

 

contra

Theo van Doesburg’s works related to Neoplasticism

 

His path to Neoplasticism

 

Mondrian intensified gradually his expressive manner of painting and began to have a more and more intensive use of colours, that eventually lead him to the need to depict the visible aspects of reality.
From 1908, Mondrian began to work in search for a truly form of painting. The artist came to the conclusion that the pure, intense, inner colours (the primary colours) and a simple manifestation of the line (horizontal and vertical) could help reach an abstract form of art that would be suitable to the spirit of the new modern age.
In 1917, Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg founded the group De Stijl. Mondrian used this magazine as a vehicle for his ideas on art, and it was actually in the magazine where he defined his aims and the term Neoplasticism. Though Mondrian established his only visual manifestation/painting style: Neoplasticism, based on philosophical and moral considerations associated with theosophy, this name was also applied not only for his work, but also for the art that the De Stijl circle practised in the different areas.
The intention would be to use the form and line to reduce the visible reality to its essence. So, in Neoplasticism, all the abstraction is connected with the reality. The elements are displaced from their visible form, but reflected in an abstract dimension.
As Mondrian himself considered:

”As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The new plastic idea cannot therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation – this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”

Mondrian uses the basic elements of painting: line, form and colour in their purest, most fundamental state, creating compositions with different lines and planes, verticals and horizontals, neutral and primary colours in a universal visual language that everyone could understand intuitively.
Two years later, the architect- designer Gerrit Rietveld joined De Stijl, which had a significant impact on the Neo-plasticists’ ideas and production.
Influenced by theosophy’s ideas, Mondrian reduces all elements to straight lines that cross and form various sized squares and rectangles and restricts the palette to pure neutral primary colors and black, white and grey. This was his proposal to represent the universal order, rather than the physical meaningless world.

 

How is Neoplasticism connected with theosophy?

 

Piet Mondrian was raised in the protestant church and later on, in 1909, joined the Dutch Theosophical Society, which was one of the main spiritual movements in the Western society at the end of the 19th century. This Society was founded in the United States but quickly spread throughout Europe and had an immediate influence on art, particularly in the Netherlands. In fact this influence was so visible that forty Dutch artists participated in the exposition organized in 1904 in Amsterdam for the Theosophical Society’s International Convention.
From this time on, theosophy was to be a major influence in life and work of Mondrian.
In the journal De Stijl, Mondrian published some articles about the influence of Theosophy. In this articles, the artist analyzes the role of traditional art that he considers as a consequence of the lack of harmony inside of man (conflict between matter and spirit) and the imbalance between man and nature. For Mondrian, theosophy was the answer to this imbalance. Theosophy principles could, in his ideas, bring conscious of the self, and as a result, bring the harmony in this relations.
For him, when the consciousness of individuality or, in other words, the concept of spirit emerges, two conflicts emerge with it. The first one would be the conflict between this individual spirit and his physical body. The second one, as a consequence of the first one, is a confrontation between man and nature, generating a ‘disharmony between man and his surrounding,’ or simply ‘the tragic in life’ as the artist considered.
In this way, we can consider that Neoplastic art arises from the same principal as traditional art does- from the perception of an imbalance inside of man. However, Neoplastic art tries to represent an absolute truth directly: the idea that if the artist represents it, is because he knows it, and not just some partial and accidental truth as traditional art seems to do it.
The aim of Neoplastic art is the representation of the absolute, almost like religion. By reaching this goal, he would be able to help the common man finding his inner balance. How? Modifying the external world to another one capable of bringing some inward balance: by transforming the surrounding environment, he would transform the man itself, and consequentially the society.

 

“Art –although and end in itself, like religion– is the means through which we can know the universal and contemplate it in plastic form.” (Mondrian, 1918)

 

Neoplastic art’s objective is to restore in man a balance with his environment, lost when man gains consciousness of his own individuality. Neoplastic art should be dissolved and fused into and with life.
For the artist himself, neoplastic art shouldn’t be limited to painting but rather extends to architecture and urbanism, and in this way make a real change in the environments. Mondrian considered that each artistic disciplines should perform a specific role, and together they should reflect the common harmony of the universe.
Therefore, for Mondrian, painting’s task would be to act as the guide for the rest of the other disciplines and eventually be dissolved, if the task is successful, into architecture, urbanism, life.
We can consider that theosophical beliefs are expressed in Mondrian’s neoplastic work, both, theoretically and concretely, in a constant demand for a true theosophical art.
Art is, in this way, a reflection of the absolute, “the Radiating Center” (as Theosophy calls it), which is the original force, creator of everything (idea that nature and spirit are manifestations of the same original whole: universal/cosmic order).
The artist, thereby, is the “translator” of a higher reality, and his works must repeat the representation of this “Radiating Center”.
Art should reproduce the conflict between opposing elements and the solution for that same conflict. The image of harmony cannot be static, but represented by multiple dialectics: two levels of elements, among which, simultaneous oppositions are produced (line/plane, vertical/horizontal, female/male, color/colorless…) The universal force/cosmic order/ the harmony, is so expressed in the duality between this contrasts.
While searching fot the harmony between opposites, Mondrian aims to help common man access his own inner harmony. By transforming the entire natural environment, the artist would establish the balance and reflect the image of the common origin of all creation: of the absolute. In this balanced environment, the common man can reach his inner equilibrium.

 

mondrian2

 Composition A, Piet Mondrian (1920)

 

Gerrit Rietveld as another member of De Stijl

 

He was born in Utrecht in 1888. His father was a cabinet maket and when just a little child, Rietveld joined the family workshop. His apprenticeship was steeped in the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement which can be seen in his early work (first attempts of furniture design).
In 1911 he opened his first shop in Utrecht and started studying architecture. As many others, he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. By 1919 he became a member of De Stijl and became friends with its members Huszar, Theo van Doesburg, Robert van t’Hoff and others.

 

What influenced Rietveld’s work?

 

Theosophy played a major role in Mondrian’s art, but since Rietveld was a member of De Stijl too (although he never actually met Mondrian), we can also see the influences of the said philosophical ideas in his work.
In De Stijl architecture and design, Cubism was again influential but so also were Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie House designs, with their asymmetric free-flow of interior and exterior spaces. Despite all that, Rietveld’s ideas were more down to earth and less philosophical that the ones of Mondrian and Doesburg. He didn’t speak frequently about his work. Therefore the interpretation of it is based on the more philosophical tenets of the other De Stijl artists (members were very different considering a way of thinking) and it sometimes seems as if the designer’s voice may have been overshadowed.
Rietveld’s painted Red/Blue chair became the archetype of movement, it was also the first time that the De Stijl colours, usually used 2D, (on Mondrian and van Doesburg’s paintings) were applied to a three-dimensional object. It was the first major piece of furniture to accord with the movement’s principles – conceived as a spatial composition, conspicuously disregarding comfort, traditional construction techniques and concepts of decoration (built on a series of horizontal and vertical planes, provides a clear expression of the group’s ideas).

rietveld1
Gerrit Rietveld: Red and blue chair

 

With Schroder’s house Rietveld created a totally original vocabulary in building construction and in the treatment of interior living space. The complex, asymmetric cubic construction of horizontal and vertical planes and lines encloses and releases space in a three-dimensional equivalent of a Mondrian painting. Linear elements are red, blue, yellow or black; surfaces white or grey.

 

 

 schroder house side-schroder-house-rietveld-utrecht
Gerrit Rietveld: Schroder house

 

A major effect on Rietveld was also Frank Lloyd Wright’s work who was a functionalist and a part of an International style. The most influential details from his work were the flow he produced between interior and exterior and also the use of verticals and horizontals. You can also see that in Rietveld’s last work, Gerrit Rietveld Academie where glass surfaces are made in a way you can see through the building, therefore it merges with surrounding nature.

 

Fallingwater

robie-house-02-2

Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie house

 

While quickly recognized as a major contributor to the development of Modernist architecture, interior and furniture design, Rietveld’s later work was largely confined to furniture design. Most known examples are his tubular steel and wood Beugelstoel chair, wooden Zig-Zag chair and wooden Crate chair. Among his other design work was the Netherlands pavilion for the 1954 Venice Biennale and a sculpture pavilion in Arnhem, Holland, built in 1955.
His furniture was designed for a mass production to be available to a large audience, even though at the end is wasn’t mass produced nor standardized – no two versions had the same dimensions.
It’s funny how when you see buildings, you mostly don’t think about the theoretical background of their form. Until we started making this research, we were more focused on functionalist features of buildings and which movement or era they belong too, but now we find ourselves thinking: ” Do this shapes represent some philosophical ideas?”

 

To conclude …

 

It’s interesting how the abstraction of Mondrian and Rietveld’s work seems to be so far from theosophical ideas – when you see the chair or a painting you don’t make an instant connection.
Mondrian and Rietveld both seems to try to make art that could reach the majority of people –a painting that would have an universal meaning (Mondrian) and a furniture that would be available for masses (Rietveld) – Art for everyone, art that would make life better. In a way, one can consider it an utopian idea, since the majority of people does not really understand the theosophical thinking … So the question remains: How educated should someone be when experience their art? Or in other words, to what point do you have to be aware of the purpose of the work to have the full experience of it?

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Now you know. Awesome, isn’t it?

 

DeBazel


Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Chaos, Fine Matter & The Immaterial.

From a Theosophical point of view, the whole body of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam represents the three basic evolutional stages; chaos, fine matter and the immaterial. The dark, syenite foundation of the building signifies the lowest level of cosmic evolution from which all forms emerge. From the solid base rises the concrete skeleton hidden by the façade of interlaced yellow bricks and purple granite. To the Theosophist yellow is equal to gold and represents the sun and male cosmic power, the purple symbolizes the moon and female cosmic power. In this sense the façade realizes one of the most important principles in H.P. Blavatsky’s (founder of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society) work The Secret Doctrine; the cosmic creation rising out of the chaos. This is called the fine matter or Svabhavat. Finally the massive glass roof that rest on top of the building, letting the light reach all the way down to the central court embodies the spirit or the immaterial. The immaterial is the highest level of cosmic evolution and brings everything to life through astral light (imagine all the employees working on the ground floor of the building still being able to get a glimpse of sunlight). This brick spekkoek is not just a fireproof vault; it is the manifestation of cosmic evolution.

[by Olga Nordwall]

Light in ‘De Bazel’

Bazel’s unique architectural form was greatly influenced by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright as it conveys a feeling of harmony and balance, with hidden religious influences in its simple organic form de Basel achieved to combine modern architectural ideas with ancient archetypes.
The glass ceiling of the building creates a sense of transparency as it leaves space for an everlasting game between light and darkness to be played within its chambers. In de Bazel sky is the lightest element of the building nearly unreachable source of luminosity then you have the last floors escalating like Japanese rice fields, 3 floors down , allowing thin air occupy most of the space in between. As you go down its round stairs the light becomes dimmer due to the stained glass that covers the windows, leading to the basement of the building where light slightly becomes less and less as you go further down, until the only source of light is artificial, asphyxiatin (being smothered) between the close walls of the basement, the spaces become smaller and the air thicker.
From the outside de Bazel seems like a close fortress contrasting with the true inner nature of the building, containing hidden beauties and mysterious qualities, stands and talks for itself as the great architectural piece that it is.

[by .............]

Checkout that amazing table.

I wanted to write you something about the amazing table in the Italian room/italiaanse zaal in de Bazel but I could not find any information about it from the internet and I missed the name of the designer, help me out please!
I think the contrast of something so modern with the rest of the room (18th century style Italian landscape murals) is a very cool effect. Since the weird Italian room quite stands out from the whole building and it’s style, placing such a minimal design table there was a brilliant move who ever then did it in the later years. I also had to think about a connection to the glass stairs (by Claus & Kaan) down to the archive that the guide was so enthusiastic about.

[by Katja Hannula]

Amsterdam City archives

Amsterdam City Archives was first built to be used as a bank, and it was not until 2007 that the purpose of the building changed to host the city’s archives.
The building was designed in 1919 by de Bazel and was finished at 1926, three years after de Bazel’s sudden death.
Its unique architectural form was greatly influenced by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright as it conveys a feeling of harmony and balance, with hidden religious influences in its simple organic form de Basel achieved to combine modern architectural ideas with ancient archetypes.
The glass ceiling of the building creates a sense of transparency as it leaves space for an everlasting game between light and darkness to be played within its chambers, the glass ceiling also supports the contrast between the inside-outside impression since when you look at the building from the outside it gives the feeling of claustrophobic space but in contrary to its illusive form when you enter the space a feel like you re in the middle of an open space.
The building was officially declared as a national monument in 1991 for its distinctive formal values by the Dutch government.

[by Clair Bamplekou]

Balanced architecture

Amsterdam Archive building. A creation of Dutch architect Karel de Bazel in which each and every measurement and size are dedicated to the proportions of the human body. However the architectural tradition which seems quite unique for that period, takes its roots back in the ancient times…

The philosophical approach, formulated in 5th century BC by the Greek philosopher Pytagoras, stating that “Man is the measure of all things”, was further developed by the Roman architect and theorist Vitruvius, who created a famous code of human proportions, describing how a well-built man fits with extended arms and legs into the most perfect geometrical figures (circle and square), which was supposed to be the basis of temples and churches of those times to be able to give a person a feeling of balanced architecture.

This principle greatly inspired Leonardo da Vinci, who in the 15th century made a famous drawing of a vitruvian man as an attempt to relate human body to nature and architecture, as well as trying to define the ideal Renaissance church.

At the beginning of the 20th century, continuing the research of da Vinci, Le Corbusier created his modular, an anthropometric scale of proportions, based on the height of man with his arm raised as an attempt to discover mathematical proportions in the human body and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture.

In his own way, based on theosophical approach, de Bazel also set out in search of universal harmony and balance for his work on the Archive building. In the lay-out of the building he used a raster of rectangular’s of 3,2×3,6 meters, in other words 8/9×9/9, which reflect the proportions of the human body with and without head. A result of it – a building, which feels comfortable, inviting and truly made for a human-being!

[by Anastasia Starostenko]

personal architecture

What is fancy about building De Bazel designed by Karel De Bazel is the whole ideology he put into forms, patterns, outlays and finally the facade of the whole construction. He believed in harmony and balance in life so its projects, expressed his personal feelings and confessions. Noticeable is how every detail has been refined and his travels to Indonesia rebounded imprint on the inside of this building here. I liked the idea concerning the architecture as a bridge between cultures, beliefs. Coming into the building, despite not knowing the architect's plan was to feel the atmosphere of stability and peace. It seems to me that you have to have an amazing sense of form to achieve this effect. It is almost like being a good psychologist. Because of the openness of architect’s mind the building he constructed could be very easily called a place of a surprise and admiration but also curiosity. Indeed, when you keep moving between the rooms, halls, you almost get an impression that you are in a museum. The idea to place the archive there is the more accurate and suits his concept better than it did for the bank that was originally there, I guess.

[by Agnieszka Zimolag]

Bazel Civilization

The Bazel is not only a building, but also furniture! I had been visiting the Bazel before, but this time the guide was putting a particular accent for the furniture “designed by De Bazel”. Not only tables and chairs, but also coffee cups, inkwells, the colors of the walls. Everything inside the building was made on purpose to fit in the building and consequently I imagine the people looking like the building too! I personally find really contemporary the idea of making such big project and follow it from the beginning until every final detail (or almost, because Karel de Bazel was dead in 1923, just before finishing the project). A “total” architecture that keeps together the whole environment inside it. It makes me imagine at the creation of a new civilization where all the tools are thought in a way that consequences and growth are predictable. It sounds science fiction, but it’s what happen when design is perfectly designed. In the Bazel furniture, colors and objects have differences depending on the level of importance of the person they were  made for. Most of the differences are details that say “we are almost the same, but my chair has a more comfortable seat” or “my table is bigger”. That’s why the hierarchic system of the bank, De Bazel designe, required respect and strict definition of roles. This is not difficult to understand for that time (early ’20s), but weird to realize in the proud voice of the giude talking about “the desk set for the president manager, a bit more black of the others desk sets, designed BY DE BAZEL”.

[by Sara Cattin]

De Bazel

Vijzelstraat number 32. the front of this huge building is covered completley with construction frames. Workers are shouting.

Karel de bazel is responsible for this.

Enter the 1920s. Look at this beautful wooden floor! Elegant white. Sunflooded. A sealing out of glass.

„karel did this all by himself!“ i love our guide, she fits the building.

Shocking from the outside and so sensible from the inside, like everything in this cityarchive; the cellar, massiv tresor doors.

Esotherik painted sealing.

„ de bazel designd everything in here, thats a gesamtkunstwerk!“ „ de bazel designd everything in here, thats a gesamtkunstwerk!“ i love our guide.

But she loves karel.

Black marmor. Dark green walls. Thats the chef etage. Now a days you can get married here.

This going back way back into time. 1920s and stylishe lightswitches. De bazel is a craftsman he knows his bussines. This is love for the detail.

He died before the building was finished. True romance. he would be proud.

I am.

[by Martin Kaehler]


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