Avant-garde tendency in 20th-century painting, sculpture, photography, design and architecture, with associated developments in literature, theatre and film. The term was first coined by artists in Russia in early 1921 and achieved wide international currency in the 1920s. Russian Constructivism refers specifically to a group of artists who sought to move beyond the autonomous art object, extending the formal language of abstract art into practical design work. This development was prompted by the utopian climate following the October Revolution of 1917, which led artists to seek to create a new visual environment, embodying the social needs and values of the new Communist order. The concept of International Constructivism defines a broader current in European art, most vital from around 1922 until the end of the 1920s, that was centred primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. International Constructivists were inspired by the Russian example, both artistically and politically. They continued, however, to work in the traditional artistic media of painting and sculpture, while also experimenting with film and photography and recognizing the potential of the new formal language for utilitarian design. The term Constructivism has frequently been used since the 1920s, in a looser fashion, to evoke a continuing tradition of geometric abstract art that is ‘constructed’ from autonomous visual elements such as lines and planes, and characterized by such qualities as precision, impersonality, a clear formal order, simplicity and economy of organization and the use of contemporary materials such as plastic and metal....
revised by Benjamin Benus
(b Diegem, nr Brussels, June 26, 1897; d Vilvoorde, nr Brussels, Dec 12, 1965).
Belgian painter, sculptor, designer and writer. He studied from 1913 to 1917 at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, winning a number of prizes for academic paintings while simultaneously exploring abstract art, of which he was one of the first practitioners in Belgium. He was encouraged in this direction by his work in a wallpaper factory, where he became fascinated by the interplay of coloured dyes in the vats; he continued working there for many years, contributing to the development of wallpaper designs. He also became involved with domestic interior decoration and took an interest in the different branches of the applied arts.
Servranckx was a vigorous champion of abstract art as a writer and teacher and in his own work, and he staunchly defended it as a rigorous and disciplined idiom against those who conceived of it in purely decorative terms. Seeking through abstraction to transcend the mere imitation of appearances, as an act of bravado he occasionally painted in a representational style in order to display his skill as a conventional painter; such is the case with ...