Karl Benjamin was an American painter of vibrant geometric abstractions, who rose to fame in 1959 as one of four Los Angeles-based Abstract Classicists and subsequently produced a critically acclaimed body of work that explores a vast array of color relationships. Working at his home in Claremont, CA, he developed a rich vocabulary of colors and hard-edge shapes in masterful compositions of balanced repose or high-spirited energy. At once intuitive and systematic, the artist is, in the words of critic Christopher Knight, "a colorist of great wit and inventiveness." Benjamin was born in Chicago in 1925. He enrolled at Northwestern University in 1943, but dropped out to join the U. S. Navy during World War II. In 1946, after three years of military service, he moved to California to study English literature and philosophy at the University of Redlands with the help of the G. I. Bill, he received a B. A. degree and California teaching credentials in 1949. With no formal education in art and no thought of becoming an artist, Benjamin married Beverly Jean Paschke, began teaching in an elementary school in Bloomington, California in 1949.
He started a family, moved to Claremont in 1952, subsequently taught in Chino for the next 30 years. Benjamin's interest in art emerged serendipitously. Asked to develop art lessons for his students' curriculum, he began working with crayons and became fascinated with the phenomenon of how colors can appear to change when juxtaposed with others. Eager to learn more, he took classes at the Claremont Graduate School and received an M. A. degree in 1960. By he was a serious painter and color was his subject matter. In 1954, he had his first solo show, at the Pasadena Art Museum. Benjamin had early success in Southern California, showing his work in museums and community galleries, but the event that put his work under a national spotlight and gave him a lasting label was "Four Abstract Classicists". Featuring the work of Lorser Feitelson, John McLaughlin and Frederick Hammersley, the 1959-60 exhibition was viewed as Los Angeles' answer to Abstract Expressionism; the West Coast artists' crisp abstractions offered a bracingly cool alternative to New York's emotion and action-packed style.
The exhibition was organized by critic Jules Langsner, opened at the San Francisco Museum of Art travelled to the Los Angeles County Museum at Exposition Park. Renamed "West Coast Hard-Edge," the revised version traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the exhibition catalog, Langsner described Abstract Classicist painting as "Hard-edge painting" in which "color and shape are one and the same entity. Form gains its existence through color and color its being through form." Of Benjamin's work, he wrote: "The elongated forms in the Karl Benjamin paintings interlock in a continuous composition that seems to be without beginning or end. Whenever one of these zigzag shapes appears to overlap an adjacent zigzag, it tucks itself back in somewhere else." "Four Abstract Classicists reveals, in retrospect, not four senior moderns who reduced their painting to precise, flat profundities, but a current of sensibility in the esthetic climate of Los Angeles," critic Peter Plagens wrote in 1974.
As he saw it, the hard-edge style rose from Los Angeles' "desert air, youthful cleanliness, spatial expanse, architectural tradition" and an optimistic belief in a refined, spiritually charged art that could fulfill human needs for visual and intellectual pleasure. Multi Triangles from 1969, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, demonstrates the artist's hard-edge painting style applied to strict geometric abstraction. Benjamin continued teaching in public elementary and middle schools until 1977, balancing his time in the classroom with work in his studio, he had a second teaching career from 1979 to 1994, when he was a professor and artist-in-residence at Pomona College in Claremont and taught classes at the Claremont Graduate School. He won National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1983 and 1989. Like many artists with long careers, Benjamin was overlooked in his years, but he re-emerged with a burst of exhibitions and critical acclaim. Louis Stern Fine Arts presented exhibitions of his paintings in 2004 and 2007.
The Claremont Museum of Art launched its exhibition program in 2007 with a 42-year survey of his work. Benjamin had a prominent place in "Birth of the Cool: California Art and Culture at Mid-Century," a 2007-09 national traveling show organized by the Orange County Museum of Art. Dave Hickey wrote in the catalog, for Benjamin's 2007 exhibition at Louis Stern: I can think of no other artist whose paintings exude the joy and pleasure of being an artist with more intensity than Karl Benjamin's nor any other artist whose long teaching career has left no blemish of cynicism on his practice. Knight, Christopher, "The Beauty of Geometry," Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2007, part E, p. 3. Langsner, Jules, "Four Abstract Classicists," Los Angeles County Museum, 1959, pp. 10–11. Plagens, Peter, "Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast, 1945-1970," University of California Press, 1974, p. 119-120. Hickey, Dave, "Dance the Line: Paintings by Karl Benjamin," exhibition catalog, Louis Stern Fine Arts, West Hollywood, 2007.
Karabenick, Julie, "Interview with Artist Karl Benjamin," on GEOFORM, 2008 Interview of Karl Benjamin, part of Los Angeles Art Community - Group Portrait series, Center for Oral History Research, UCLA Library Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles
Herbert Busemann was a German-American mathematician specializing in convex and differential geometry. He is the author of Busemann's theorem in Euclidean geometry and geometric tomography, he was a member of the Royal Danish Academy and a winner of the Lobachevsky Medal, the first American mathematician to receive it. He was a Fulbright scholar in New Zealand in 1952. Herbert Busemann was born in Berlin to a well-to-do family, his father,Alfred Busemann, was a director of Krupp, where Busemann worked for several years. He studied at University of Munich and Rome, he defended his dissertation in University of Göttingen in 1931, where his advisor was Richard Courant. He remained in Göttingen as an assistant until 1933, he worked at the University of Copenhagen until 1936. There, he got married in 1939 and naturalized in 1943, he had temporary positions at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Smith College, became a professor in 1947 at University of Southern California.
He advanced to a distinguished professor in 1964, continued working at USC until his retirement in 1970. Over the course of his work at USC, he supervised over 10 Ph. D. students. He is the author of six monographs, two of which were translated into Russian, he received Lobachevsky Medal in 1985 for his book The geometry of geodesics. Busemann was an active mathematical citizen. At different times, he was the president of the California chapter of Mathematical Association of America, a member of the council of the American Mathematical Society. Busemann was an accomplished linguist, he could read Arabic, Latin and Swedish. He translated a number of papers and monograph, most notably from Russian, a rare language at the time, he was an accomplished artist and had several public exhibitions of his Hard-edge paintings]. He died in Santa Ynez, California on February 3, 1994, at the age of 88. Busemann's Selected papers are now available in two volumes, with introductory biographical material and commentaries on his work, published by edited by Athanase Papadopoulos, Springer Verlag, 2018.
Herbert Busemann, Selected Works, Volume I, ISBN 978-3-319-64294-9, XXXII, 908 p. Springer International Publishing, 2018. Herbert Busemann, Selected Works, Volume II, ISBN 978-3-319-65623-6, XXXV, 842 p. Springer International Publishing, 2018. Introduction to algebraic manifolds, Princeton University Press, 1939. With Paul J. Kelly: Projective geometry and projective metrics, Academic Press, 1953, Dover 2006. Convex Surfaces, Interscience 1958, Dover, 2008. Geometry of Geodesics, Academic Press 1955, Dover, 2005. Metric methods in Finsler spaces and in the foundations of geometry, Princeton University Press, Oxford University Press, 1942. With Bhalchandra Phadke: Spaces with distinguished geodesics, Dekker, 1987. Recent synthetic differential geometry, Springer 1970. Busemann function Busemann–Petty problem Busemann G -space Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany: Individual Fates and Global Impact, p. 107, Princeton University Press, 2009. Richard J. Gardner, Geometric tomography, p. 309, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
"Professor as SC plans study in New Zealand", Los Angeles Times, 6 January 1952, p. 22. "Professors write Geometry Textbook", Los Angeles Times 10 August 1953, p. 1. "Herbert Busemann, Oil Paintings", Los Angeles Times, 18 January 1976, p. M59. Lee Dembart, "An Unsung Geometer Keeps to His Own Plane", Los Angeles Times, 14 July 1985, p. H3. "Herbert Busemann. Athanase Papadopoulos, "Herbert Busemann", Notices of the AMS, vol. 65, No. 3, March 2018, p. 936-938. Herbert Busemann at the Mathematics Genealogy Project Herbert Busemann's biography
John Rivers Coplans was a British artist, art writer and museum director. A veteran of World War II and a photographer, he emigrated to the United States in 1960 and had many exhibitions in Europe and North America, he was on the founding editorial staff of Artforum from 1962 to 1971, was Editor-in-Chief from 1972 to 1977. John Coplans was born in London in 1920, his father, was Joseph Moses Coplans a medical doctor and a Renaissance man of many scientific and artistic talents. His father left England for Johannesburg. At the age of two, John was brought to his father in South Africa. Despite the instability of his early home life, Coplans developed an enormous admiration for his father, who took him to galleries on the weekends and instilled within him a love for exploration, a fascination with the world. In 1937, John Coplans returned to England from South Africa; the eighteen-year-old Coplans was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an Acting Pilot Officer. Due to his hearing being affected by a rugby match, two years he volunteered for the army.
His childhood experience living in Africa led to his appointment to the King’s African Rifles in East Africa. He was active as a platoon commander until 1943. In 1945, after eight years serving in the army, Coplans returned to civilian life and decided to become an artist. After WWII, Coplans settled in London; the British government was giving grants to recent veterans of the war as the city rebuilt itself, he received one such grant to study art. He tried both Goldsmiths and Chelsea College of the Arts, but found that art school did not suit him, he painted part-time whilst running his business John Rivers Limited. It specialised in interior decorating and he worked for Cecil Beaton, Basil Deardon and other luminaries of the time. In the mid-1950s, Coplans began attending lectures by Lawrence Alloway at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Here he was introduced to the budding Pop Art movement, which he would become involved in as both critic and curator, his experience viewing exhibitions such as the Hard-Edged Painting exhibition and New American Painting helped to solidify his growing passion for not just Pop Art, but American art as well.
During this period he struggled as a young artist to find his artistic voice, developed an abstract painting practice which reflected trends of tachism and Abstract Expressionism pioneered by Americans Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Coplans would refer to this early painting work as "derivative". In 1960, Coplans sold all of his belongings and moved to the United States settling in San Francisco and taking a position at UC Berkeley as a visiting assistant design professor. Here he met the future editor of ArtForum. Leider connected Coplans to John Irwin. Coplans convinced Irwin that the West Coast needed an art publication: one that gave voice to art, important, but had not yet received critical attention, he further suggested that it should be published in square format so that both vertical and horizontal images would be viewed thus giving birth to ArtForum's iconic shape—and to the successful foundation of ArtForum itself. Coplans was a regular writer for the magazine, his perspective on art writing was anti-elitist, using popular appeal and excitement over new work to “stimulate debate and awareness” for West Coast artists.
Finding himself conflicted between his painting and writing careers, he chose the latter, devoting the next twenty years of his life to the magazine, curatorial pursuits, a career as a museum director. It was at the age of 62, that he returned to his career as an artist. Coplans is known for his series of black and white self-portraits which are a frank study of the naked, aging body, he photographed his body from the base of his foot to the wrinkles on his hand. As he never photographed his face, his images are not focused on identity. In 1980, during his one-year appointment as head of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, Coplans first began experimenting with photography. Here he took his initial nude photographs with a timer, but would not return to the idea until 1984, when he began a serious exploration into the self portraits with the help of an assistant; the poses were inspired by an intuitive connection to a pre-conscious, pre-lingual awareness of the body. “I don’t know how it happens, but when I pose for one of these photographs, I become immersed in the past...
I am another person, or a woman in another life. At times, I’m in my youth.”His technique for making the photographs involved use of Polaroid positive/negative 4x5 film, so that he could see the result of the poses and make immediate adjustments. He used a video camera connected to a television monitor to see the back of the 4x5 camera for an more immediate mirror effect. Although this technique deepened his control and accuracy, it is of note that he claimed to possess a sense of pre-determined clarity about the poses, his photographs question the taboo of age through the provocative and direct style of addressing his body. Said Coplans: “I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m seventy years old, the bodies of seventy-year old me
Theo van Doesburg
Theo van Doesburg was a Dutch artist, who practiced painting, writing and architecture. He is best known as the leader of De Stijl, he was married to artist and choreographer Nelly van Doesburg. Theo van Doesburg was born Christian Emil Marie Küpper on 30 August 1883, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, as the son of the photographer Wilhelm Küpper and Henrietta Catherina Margadant. After a short training in acting and singing, he decided to become a storekeeper, he always regarded his stepfather, Theodorus Doesburg, to be his natural father, so that his first works are signed with Theo Doesburg, to which he added the insertion "van". His first exhibition was in 1908. From 1912 onwards, he supported his works by writing for magazines, he considered himself to be a modern painter, at that time, although his early work is in line with the Amsterdam Impressionists and is influenced by Vincent van Gogh, both in style and subject matter. This changed in 1913 after reading Wassily Kandinsky's Rückblicke, in which he looks back at his life as a painter from 1903–1913.
It made him realize there was a higher, more spiritual level in painting that originates from the mind rather than from everyday life, that abstraction is the only logical outcome of this. It was in 1912 that Van Doesburg was criticizing Futurism in an art article in Eenheid no. 127, on 9 November 1912, because "The mimetic expression of velocity is diametrically opposed to the character of painting, the supreme origin of, to be found in inner life". On 6 November 1915, he wrote in the same journal: "Mondrian realizes the importance of line; the line has become a work of art in itself. The white canvas is solemn; each superfluous line, each wrongly placed line, any color placed without veneration or care, can spoil everything—that is, the spiritual". It was while reviewing an exposition for one of these magazines he wrote for, in 1915, that he came in contact with the works of Piet Mondrian, eight years older than he was, had by already gained some attention with his paintings. Van Doesburg saw in these paintings his ideal in painting: a complete abstraction of reality.
Soon after the exposition Van Doesburg got in contact with Mondrian, together with related artists Bart van der Leck, Antony Kok, Vilmos Huszár and Jacobus Oud they founded the magazine De Stijl in 1917. Although De Stijl was made up of many members, Van Doesburg was the "ambassador" of the movement, promoting it across Europe, he moved to Weimar in 1922, deciding to make an impression on the Bauhaus principal, Walter Gropius, in order to spread the influence of the movement. While Gropius accepted many of the precepts of contemporary art movements he did not feel that Doesburg should become a Bauhaus master. Doesburg installed himself near to the Bauhaus buildings and started to attract school students interested in the new ideas of Constructivism, De Stijl; the friendship between Van Doesburg and Mondrian remained strong in these years, although their primary means of communication was by letter. In 1923 Van Doesburg moved to Paris, together with his wife Nelly van Moorsel; because the two men got to see each other on a much more regular basis the differences in character became apparent: Mondrian was an introvert, while van Doesburg was more flamboyant and extravagant.
During 1924 the two men had disagreements, which led to a temporary split that year. The exact reason for the split has been a point of contention among art historians. Mondrian accepted some concepts of diagonals, such as in his "Lozenge" paintings, where the canvas was rotated 45 degrees, while still maintaining horizontal lines. In recent years, this theory has been challenged by art historians such as Carel Blotkamp, who cites the artist's different concepts about space and time. After the split, Van Doesburg launched a new concept for his art, characterized by the diagonal lines and which rivaled Mondrian's Neo-Plasticism. In 1929 the two men reconciled. Van Doesburg had other activities apart from painting and promoting De Stijl: he made efforts in architecture, designing houses for artists, together with Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Hans Arp he designed the decoration for the Aubette entertainment complex in Strasbourg. Together with El Lissitzky and Kurt Schwitters, Van Doesburg pioneered the efforts to an International of Arts in two congresses held in Düsseldorf and Weimar, in 1922.
A geometrically constructed alphabet Van Doesburg designed in 1919 has been revived in digital form as Architype Van Doesburg. This typeface anticipates similar experimentation by Kurt Schwitters in his typeface Architype Schwitters. In the mid 1920s, Van Doesburg worked together with Schwitters and the artist Kate Steinitz to produce a series of children's fairy-tale books that featured unusual typography, including Hahnepeter, Die Märchen vom Paradies, Die Scheuche. Van Doesburg kept a link with DADA, publishing the magazine Mécano under the heteronym of I. K. Bonset, he published Dada poetry under the same name in De Stijl. U
Ellsworth Kelly was an American painter and printmaker associated with hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and minimalism. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing line and form, similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly employed bright colors, he worked in Spencertown, New York. Kelly was born the second son of three to Allan Howe Kelly and Florence Rose Elizabeth Kelly in Newburgh, New York 60 miles north of New York City, his father was an insurance company executive of German descent. His mother was a former schoolteacher of Pennsylvania German stock, his family moved from Newburgh to a town of nearly 7,500 people. His family lived near the Oradell Reservoir, where his paternal grandmother introduced him to ornithology when he was eight or nine years old. There he developed his passion for color. John James Audubon had a strong influence on Kelly's work throughout his career. Author Eugene Goossen speculated that the two- and three-color paintings for which Kelly is so well known can be traced to his bird watching and his study of the two- and three-color birds he saw so at an early age.
Kelly has said he was alone as a young boy and became somewhat of a "loner". He had a slight stutter. Kelly attended public school, where art classes stressed materials and sought to develop the "artistic imagination"; this curriculum was typical of the broader trend in schooling that had emerged from the Progressive education theories promulgated by the Columbia University's Teacher's College, at which the American modernist painter Arthur Wesley Dow had taught. Although his parents were reluctant to support Kelly's art training, a school teacher encouraged him to go further; as his parents would pay only for technical training, Kelly studied first at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which he attended from 1941 until he was inducted into the Army on New Year’s Day 1943. Upon entering U. S military service in 1943 Kelly requested to be assigned to the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion, which took many artists, he was inducted at Fort Dix, New Jersey and sent to Camp Hale, where he trained with mountain ski troops.
He had never skied before. Six to eight weeks he was transferred to Fort Meade, Maryland. During World War II, he served with other artists and designers in a deception unit known as The Ghost Army; the Ghost soldiers used inflatable tanks and other elements of subterfuge to mislead the Axis forces about the direction and disposition of Allied forces. His exposure to military camouflage during the time he served became part of his basic art training. Kelly served with the unit from 1943 until the end of the European phase of the war. Kelly used the G. I. Bill to study from 1946-47 at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he took advantage of the museum's collections, at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. While in Boston he exhibited in his first group show at the Boris Mirski Gallery and taught art classes at the Norfolk House Center in Roxbury. While in Paris Kelly established his aesthetic, he attended classes infrequently, but immersed himself in the rich artistic resources of the French capital.
He had heard a lecture by Max Beckmann on the French artist Paul Cézanne in 1948 and moved to Paris that year. There he encountered fellow Americans John Cage and Merce Cunningham, experimenting in music and dance, respectively; the experience of visiting artists such as Alberto Magnelli, Francis Picabia, Alberto Giacometti and Georges Vantongerloo in their studios was transformative. After being abroad for six years Kelly's French was still poor and he had sold only one painting. In 1953 he was evicted from his studio and he returned to America the following year, he had become interested after reading a review of an Ad Reinhardt exhibit, an artist whose work he felt his work related to. Upon his return to New York, he found the art world “very tough.” Although Kelly is now considered an essential innovator and contributor to the American art movement, it was hard for many to find the connection between Kelly's art and the dominant stylistic trends. In May 1956 Kelly had his first New York City exhibition at Betty Parsons' gallery.
His art was considered more European. He showed again at her gallery in the fall of 1957. Three of his pieces: Atlantic and Painting in Three Panels, were selected for and shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibit, "Young America 1957", his pieces were considered radically different from the other twenty-nine artists’ works. Painting in Three Panels, for example, was noted. For instance, Michael Plante has said that, more than not, Kelly’s multiple-panel pieces were cramped because of installation restrictions, which reduced the interaction between the pieces and the architecture of the room. Kelly moved away from Coenties Slip, where he had sometimes shared a studio with fellow artist and friend Agnes Martin, to the ninth floor of the high-rise studio/co-op Hotel des Artistes at 27 West 67th Street. Kelly left New York City for Spencertown in 1970 and was joined there by his partner, photographer Jack Shear, in 1984. From 2001 until his death Kelly worked in a 20,000-square-feet studio in Spencertown reconfigured and extended by the architect Richard Gluckman.
Kelly and Shear moved in 2
Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of modern art education programs of the twentieth century. Albers was born into a Roman Catholic family of craftsmen in Bottrop, Germany, he worked from 1908 to 1913 as a schoolteacher in his home town. From 1916 to 1919 he began his work as a printmaker at the Kunstgewerbschule in Essen. In 1918 he received his first public commission, Rosa mystica ora pro nobis, a stained-glass window for a church in Essen. In 1919 he went to Munich, Germany, to study at the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, where he was a pupil of Max Doerner and Franz Stuck. Albers enrolled as a student in the preliminary course of Johannes Itten at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1920. Although Albers had studied painting, it was as a maker of stained glass that he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus in 1922, approaching his chosen medium as a component of architecture and as a stand-alone art form.
The director and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, asked him in 1923 to teach in the preliminary course'Werklehre' of the department of design to introduce newcomers to the principles of handicrafts, because Albers came from that background and had appropriate practice and knowledge. In 1925, Albers was promoted to professor, the year. At this time, he married Anni Albers, a student there, his work in Dessau included working with glass. As a younger art teacher, he was teaching at the Bauhaus among artists who included Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee; the so-called form master, Klee taught the formal aspects in the glass workshops where Albers was the crafts master. With the closure of the Bauhaus under Nazi pressure in 1933 the artists dispersed, most leaving the country. Albers emigrated to the United States; the architect Philip Johnson a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, arranged for Albers to be offered a job as head of a new art school, Black Mountain College, in North Carolina.
In November 1933, he joined the faculty of the college where he was the head of the painting program until 1949. At Black Mountain, his students included Ruth Asawa, Ray Johnson, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Susan Weil, he invited important American artists such as Willem de Kooning, to teach in the summer seminar. Weil remarked that, as a teacher, Albers was "his own academy", she said that Albers claimed that "when you're in school, you're not an artist, you're a student", although he was supportive of self-expression when one became an artist and began on her or his journey. Albers produced many woodcuts and leaf studies at this time. In 1950, Albers left Black Mountain to head the department of design at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. While at Yale, Albers worked to expand the nascent graphic design program, hiring designers Alvin Eisenman, Herbert Matter, Alvin Lustig. Albers worked at Yale until he retired from teaching in 1958. At Yale, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Eva Hesse, Neil Welliver, Jane Davis Doggett were notable students.
In 1962, as a fellow at Yale, he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies of Fine Arts for an exhibit and lecture on his work. Albers collaborated with Yale professor and architect King-lui Wu in creating decorative designs for some of Wu's projects. Among these were distinctive geometric fireplaces for the Rouse and DuPont houses, the façade of Manuscript Society, one of Yale's secret senior groups, a design for the Mt. Bethel Baptist Church. At this time he worked on his structural constellation pieces. In 1963, he published Interaction of Color which presented his theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic; the rare first edition has a limited printing of only 2,000 copies and contained 150 silk screen plates. This work has been republished since and is now available as an iPad App. During this time, he created the abstract album covers of band leader Enoch Light's Command LP records, his album cover for Terry Snyder and the All Stars 1959 album, Persuasive Percussion, shows a packed grid or lattice of small black disks from which a few wander up and out as if stray molecules of some light gas.
He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973. Albers continued to paint and write, staying in New Haven with his wife, textile artist, Anni Albers, until his death in 1976. Accomplished as a designer, typographer and poet, Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter and theorist, he favored a disciplined approach to composition. Most famous of all are the hundreds of paintings and prints that make up the series, Homage to the Square. In this rigorous series, begun in 1949, Albers explored chromatic interactions with nested squares. Painting on Masonite, he used a palette knife with oil colors and recorded the colors he used on the back of his works; each painting consists of either three or four squares of solid planes of color nested within one another, in one of four different arrangements and in square formats ranging from 406×406 mm to 1.22×1.22 m. In 1959, a gold-leaf mural by Albers, Two Structural Constellations was engraved in the lobby of the Corning Glass Building in Manhattan.
For the entrance of the Time & Life Building lobby, he created Two Portals, a 42-feet by 14-feet mural of alternating glass bands in white and brown that recede into two bronze centers to cre
Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, after 1906 Piet Mondrian, was a Dutch painter and theoretician, regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He is known for being one of the pioneers of 20th century abstract art, as he changed his artistic direction from figurative painting to an abstract style, until he reached a point where his artistic vocabulary was reduced to simple geometric elements. Mondrian's art was utopian and was concerned with a search for universal values and aesthetics, he proclaimed in 1914: Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man, his art, always remained rooted in nature. He was a contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which he co-founded with Theo van Doesburg, he evolved a non-representational form.
This was the new'pure plastic art' which he believed was necessary in order to create'universal beauty'. To express this, Mondrian decided to limit his formal vocabulary to the three primary colors, the three primary values and the two primary directions. Mondrian's arrival in Paris from the Netherlands in 1911 marked the beginning of a period of profound change, he encountered experiments in Cubism and with the intent of integrating himself within the Parisian avant-garde removed an'a' from the Dutch spelling of his name. Mondrian's work had an enormous influence on 20th century art, influencing not only the course of abstract painting and numerous major styles and art movements, but fields outside the domain of painting, such as design and fashion. Design historian Stephen Bayley said:'Mondrian has come to mean Modernism, his name and his work sum up the High Modernist ideal. I don’t like the word ‘iconic’, so let’s say that he’s become totemic – a totem for everything Modernism set out to be.'
Mondrian was born in Amersfoort in the second of his parents' children. He was descended from Christian Dirkzoon Monderyan who lived in The Hague as early as 1670; the family moved to Winterswijk when his father, Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan, was appointed head teacher at a local primary school. Mondrian was introduced to art from an early age, his father was a qualified drawing teacher, with his uncle, Fritz Mondriaan, the younger Piet painted and drew along the river Gein. After a strict Protestant upbringing, in 1892, Mondrian entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam, he was qualified as a teacher. He began his career as a teacher in primary education, but he practiced painting. Most of his work from this period is naturalistic or Impressionistic, consisting of landscapes; these pastoral images of his native country depict windmills and rivers in the Dutch Impressionist manner of the Hague School and in a variety of styles and techniques that attest to his search for a personal style. These paintings are representational, they illustrate the influence that various artistic movements had on Mondrian, including pointillism and the vivid colors of Fauvism.
On display in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag are a number of paintings from this period, including such Post-Impressionist works as The Red Mill and Trees in Moonrise. Another painting, depicting a tree in a field at dusk augurs future developments by using a palette consisting entirely of red and blue. Although Avond is only limitedly abstract, it is the earliest Mondrian painting to emphasize primary colors. Mondrian's earliest paintings showing a degree of abstraction are a series of canvases from 1905 to 1908 that depict dim scenes of indistinct trees and houses reflected in still water. Although the result leads the viewer to begin focusing on the forms over the content, these paintings are still rooted in nature, it is only the knowledge of Mondrian's achievements that leads one to search in these works for the roots of his future abstraction. Mondrian's art was intimately related to his philosophical studies. In 1908, he became interested in the theosophical movement launched by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the late 19th century, in 1909 he joined the Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society.
The work of Blavatsky and a parallel spiritual movement, Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy affected the further development of his aesthetic. Blavatsky believed that it was possible to attain a more profound knowledge of nature than that provided by empirical means, much of Mondrian's work for the rest of his life was inspired by his search for that spiritual knowledge. In 1918, he wrote "I got everything from the Secret Doctrine", referring to a book written by Blavatsky. In 1921, in a letter to Steiner, Mondrian argued that his neoplasticism was "the art of the foreseeable future for all true Anthroposophists and Theosophists", he remained a committed Theosophist in subsequent years, although he believed that his own artistic current, would become part of a larger, ecumenical spirituality. Mondrian and his work were influenced by the 1911 Moderne Kunstkring exhibition of Cubism in Amsterdam, his search for simplification is shown in two versions of Still Life with Ginger Pot. The 1911 version is Cubist.