Week 9 / March 28: Russian Constructivism and De Stijl and Met Museum Assignment #2

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930, oil on canvas. This is an example of De Stijl.


Suprematism, Russian Constructivism and De Stijl

This week, we will learn about these three styles.

Suprematism is related to one Russian artist named Kazimir Malevich, who was influenced by Cubism before developing Suprematism.

Russian Constructivism and De Stijl developed during and immediately after World War I. They are each based on different political ideologies and socialist philosophies that were relevant at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Kazimir Malevich and Suprematism

Read overview about the artist Kazimir Malevich on artstory.org then click on ‘Kazimir Malevich Artworks in Focus’ section in the blue text box to read about the first 5 artworks through White on White painting. LINK: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-malevich-kasimir.htm

Read this comic and the short text that follows it, comparing the philosophies of Kazimir Malevich with Vladimir Tatlin, associated with the Russian Constructivists. LINK:


Russian Constructivism

The events of World War I led to a complete economic and social collapse in Russia with the proletariat or working class leading a revolution in 1917. The monarchy is abolished and a new system of government, called Communism, is enacted for the first time in world history based on the theories of the economist Karl Marx. A group of Russian artists called the Constructivists responded by using art in service to the newly developing society of Communist Russia.

Read two overviews of the Russian Revolution:

  1. ‘A Brief History of the Russian Revolution’ – LINK: https://www.marx-memorial-library.org/history-of-1917
  2. ‘Russian Revolution’ on Wikipedia (read first 5 paragraphs until blue table of contents box) – LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Revolution

Read the essay about Russian Constructivism (when you get to ‘concepts and styles’ click on the downward arrow to reveal the rest of the essay – read all of it!): LINK: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-constructivism.htm

On Khan Academy, in the ‘Art Between the Wars’ section, read the essay about the Russian Constructivists and Varvara Stepanova’s The Results of the First Five-Year Plan, photomontage, made in 1932:

LINK: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/art-between-wars/intl-avant-garde/a/stepanova-the-results-of-the-first-five-year-plan

Answer this question in your notes in a few sentences (Question 1):

For Russian Constructivism, consider how their art was politically, culturally and socially engaged with ideas relevant to their country during this time. How did the Russian Constructivists characterize the role of an artist in their society? What was their overall goal and what were they hoping to use their art to do?

De Stijl (Dutch meaning ‘The Style’)

In the European country, Holland (also called the Netherlands or the Dutch Republic), geometric abstraction in a style called De Stijl is developed as something utopian, universal and harmonious after the divisive effects of nationalism during World War I. De Stijl’s leading artist is Piet Mondrian.

Read the essay about De Stijl (when you get to ‘concepts and styles’ click on the downward arrow to reveal the rest of the essay – read all of it!):

LINK: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-de-stijl.htm

On Khan Academy, in the same section, listen to two videos about Mondrian’s artworks:

LINK: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/art-between-wars/intl-avant-garde/v/mondrian-composition

LINK: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/art-between-wars/intl-avant-garde/v/mondrian-composition-no-ii-with-red-and-blue-1929

Here are works similar to the ones discussed in the videos made as Mondrian is developing as an artist:

Mondrian, Gray Tree, 1911-12 (left); and Mondrian, Flowering Apple Tree, 1912 (right)

The artwork at the top of this page is in Mondrian’s mature De Stijl style; Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930, oil on canvas

Answer these questions in a few sentences in your notes (Question 2 and 3):

Explain what has happened to Mondrian’s treatment of the imagery of the tree to arrive at this De Stijl artwork. What happens to subject matter? What specific elements of composition does he restrict himself to using in De Stijl? List three elements.

How is Mondrian’s mature artwork Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow and De Stijl in general considered a universal style or a harmonious style? Explain what this means.

For class next week – summary of the 3 required things to do:

  1. Read and take notes on Suprematism, Russian Constructivism and De Stijl.
  2. Bring your short answers to the questions asked above to use in class for discussion.
  3. Review the Met Museum Paper Assignment #2  (due at the beginning of class 14)

Remember / FYI:

The powerpoint is on Blackboard.