De Stijl consisted of artists and architects. In a more narrow sense, the term De Stijl is used to refer to a body of work from 1917 to 1931 founded in the Netherlands. Proponents of De Stijl advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour; they simplified visual compositions to vertical and horizontal, using only black, white and primary colors.
Like many other avant-garde art movements at the time, De Stijl was a reaction against the horrors of World War I. It was utopian in nature in the sense that the members of De Stijl believed art to have a transformative power. For them, art was a means towards social and spiritual redemption.
It was also a reaction against the decorative excesses of Art Deco, the reduced quality of De Stijl art was envisioned by its creators as a universal visual language appropriate to the modern era, a time of a new, spiritualized world order.
Led by the painters Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian – its central and celebrated figures – De Stijl artists applied their style to a host of media in the fine and applied arts and beyond. Promoting their innovative ideas in their journal of the same name, the members envisioned nothing less than the ideal fusion of form and function, thereby making De Stijl in effect the ultimate style. To this end, De Stijl artists turned their attention not only to fine art media such as painting and sculpture, but virtually all other art forms as well, including industrial design, typography, even literature and music.
De Stijl’s influence was perhaps felt most noticeably in the realm of architecture, helping give rise to the International Style of the 1920s and 1930s.
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