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Article

Kenneth W. Prescott

(b Erie, PA, May 23, 1930).

American painter, printmaker and sculptor. He trained at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, OH (1948–53), and under Albers family, §1 at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, CT (1953–5). In his paintings of the late 1940s and early 1950s he depicted everyday city life, as in The Bridge (1950; artist’s priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 66). In 1957 he moved to New York, where from 1957 to 1958 he worked as a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and from 1959 to 1961 as a silver designer for Tiffany and Co. During this period he began to produce abstract paintings, using either organic or geometric repeated forms, as in Winter Recipe (1958; New York, Mr and Mrs David Evins priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 100). These led in the early 1960s to asymmetric and imperfectly geometric works, such as ...

Article

Hilary Pyle

(b Dublin, Sept 22, 1943).

Irish painter and printmaker . He studied architecture at Bolton Street Technical School, Dublin, from 1961 to 1964. While acting as assistant to Michael Farrell in 1967, he was introduced to hard-edge abstraction and decided to learn to paint. His natural inclination was towards figurative art, initially in his use of the figure as a silhouette in the Marchers series and subsequently in 3rd May—Goya (1970; Dublin, Hugh Lane Mun. Gal.) and other pastiches of paintings by Poussin, Ingres and Delacroix, in which he filled in the outline with flat colour. Such early works were heavily influenced by photography and by a social or political commitment, reinforced with a striking visual wit. These were followed by paintings satirizing the awakening interest in contemporary art in Dublin, as in Woman with Pierre Soulages (1972; Dublin, Bank of Ireland Col.) in which a figure is shown scrutinizing an abstract canvas.

A visit to Brussels, where Ballagh studied the work of Magritte, led him gradually to model his figures, both in portraits and in quasi-Surrealist autobiographical works, in a Photorealist technique in which he alluded to his artistic preoccupations and to his wife and family. The stylistic features of his paintings lent themselves also to silkscreen prints. He has photographed unusual aspects of Dublin architecture, which he published in book form as ...

Article

Hans Frei

(b Winterthur, Dec 22, 1908; d Zurich, Dec 9, 1994).

Swiss architect, sculptor, painter, industrial designer, graphic designer and writer. He attended silversmithing classes at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich from 1924 to 1927. Then, inspired by the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925), Paris, by the works of Le Corbusier and by a competition entry (1927) for the Palace of the League of Nations, Geneva, by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer (1894–1952), he decided to become an architect and enrolled in the Bauhaus, Dessau, in 1927. He studied there for two years as a pupil of Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky, mainly in the field of ‘free art’. In 1929 he returned to Zurich. After working on graphic designs for the few modern buildings being constructed, he built his first work, his own house and studio (1932–3) in Zurich-Höngg; although this adheres to the principles of the new architecture, it retains echoes of the traditional, for example in the gently sloping saddle roof....

Article

Filipino, 20th century, male.

Born 1937, in Sampaloc, Manila, Philippines; died 13 April 2013.

Painter, conceptual artist.

Roberto Chabet studied architecture at the University of Santo Tomas and graduated in 1961, the year he held his first solo exhibition, at the Luz Gallery. He achieved early critical success when he won first prize for his painting ...

Article

Christina Lodder

Reviser Benjamin Benus

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....

Article

(b Bucharest, Feb 27, 1922).

Romanian painter and sculptor. He enrolled at the School of Architecture in Bucharest in 1941 and the same year made his début at the Salonul Oficial de Picturǎ at Sala Dalles in Bucharest. He had his first one-man show at the Ateneul Romǎn in Bucharest in 1942 and was awarded the Anastase Simu Prize for painting. In 1946 he won a scholarship to Paris, where he then settled. After a few months with André Lhote he worked with Léger in 1949–50 and then studied with Auguste Herbin, also becoming acquainted with Mondrian’s work through Félix del Marle (1889–1952). This encounter with abstract art led to his first really original paintings, such as Starry Night (1951; see 1976 exh. cat., p. 44), which consists of a geometric arrangement of white dots. He destroyed most of the works he produced during the second half of the 1950s, an experimental period for him. His works of the early 1960s, executed in oil on a polyester base, are in a gestural, impasto style close to Tachism, as in ...

Article

Allan Doig

(b Utrecht, Aug 30, 1883; d Davos, Switzerland, March 7, 1931).

Dutch painter, architect, designer and writer. He was officially registered as the son of Wilhelm Küpper and Henrietta Catharina Margadant, but he was so convinced that his mother’s second husband, Theodorus Doesburg, was his father that he took his name. Little is known of his early life, but he began painting naturalistic subjects c. 1899. In 1903 he began his military service, and around the same time he met his first wife, Agnita Feis, a Theosophist and poet. Between about 1908 and 1910, much influenced by the work of Honoré Daumier, he produced caricatures, some of which were later published in his first book De maskers af! (1916). Also during this period he painted some Impressionist-inspired landscapes and portraits in the manner of George Hendrik Breitner. Between 1914 and 1915 the influence of Kandinsky became clear in such drawings as Streetmusic I and Streetmusic II (The Hague, Rijksdienst Beeld. Kst) and other abstract works....

Article

Gisela Moeller

(b Berlin, April 12, 1871; d Berlin, April 13, 1925).

German architect, designer, writer and teacher. After moving to Munich in 1892, he abandoned his plan to become a teacher, deciding on a career as a freelance scholar. He then studied aesthetics, psychology and philosophy, being particularly influenced by the lectures of the psychologist Theodor Lipps. He also studied German literature, art and music. In 1895 he intended to write a doctorate on the theme of ‘The Construction of Feeling’. In spring 1896 he met Hermann Obrist, who persuaded him to abandon his proposed academic career and become a self-taught artist. As well as book illustrations and decorative pieces for the art magazines Pan and Dekorative Kunst, he produced decorative designs for wall reliefs, carpets, textiles, coverings, window glass and lamps. In 1897 he designed his first furniture for his cousin, the historian Kurt Breysig. His first architectural work, the Elvira photographic studio in Munich (1896–7; destr. 1944), decorated on its street façade by a gigantic, writhing dragon, was a quintessential work of ...

Article

Piero Pacini

(b Modena, June 20, 1894; d Rome, June 17, 1956).

Italian painter, decorative artist, stage designer, architect, sculptor and writer. He studied at Lucca, Turin and Rome, where he briefly attended the Accademia di Belle Arti, and his work earned the appreciation of his teacher Duilio Cambellotti (b 1876). In 1912 he joined the studio of Giacomo Balla and belonged to a Futurist art collective through which he met the leaders of the movement. In April and May 1914 he exhibited with other Futurists at the Galleria Sprovieri in Rome and, shortly afterwards, in Prague. Figure+Window (1914; Rome, priv. col.; see Menna, 1967, fig.) exemplifies the experiments he was carrying out at the time. He was particularly interested in the use of combinations of different materials and in theoretical speculation, writing in 1915 the manifestos Scenografia e coreografia futurista, Scultura dei colori e totale and Architettura futurista.

Prampolini met Tristan Tzara in Rome in 1916 and took part in the international ...

Article

French, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 27 April 1950.

Painter, pastellist, draughtsman.

Didier Rochut graduated from the École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris in 1977. In essence, he is an informal abstract artist, although he does not consistently repudiate realist elements in his work. His compositions, with their fields of colour, are reminiscent of those of Mark Rothko. Rochut exhibited his work at group and solo exhibitions. His solo shows have included: in ...

Article

Wilford W. Scott

(b Philadelphia, PA, Oct 15, 1881; d Philadelphia, Oct 13, 1918).

American painter and photographer. After training as an architect at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (A.B., 1903), he studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, also in Philadelphia, from 1903 to 1906 under William Merritt Chase, with whom he travelled to Europe. From 1907 to 1909 he lived mostly in Paris, where he saw the work of major avant-garde artists, including Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse, and benefited from contact with Leo Stein, an important collector and writer. By 1909 Schamberg had responded to the example of Cézanne’s paintings, including simplified and more solid forms in his own work. Following his participation in the Armory Show in 1913, Cubism became the dominant element of his art, modified in such works as Figure B, Geometric Patterns (1913; Fort Worth, TX, Amon Carter Mus.) by his use of vibrant colour. About 1915 Schamberg met Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia in New York through Walter Arensberg and in works such as ...

Article

Karen Wilkin

(b Richmond, Surrey, April 18, 1937).

English sculptor. He trained as an architect from 1954 to 1959 at the Architectural Association, London, and part-time as a sculptor at St Martin’s School of Art from 1955 to 1959 under Anthony Caro when Caro was still working figuratively. Scott later recalled that in his search for abstraction he took as his first model the work of Constantin Brancusi; the sculpture of David Smith, to which his formal language bears some resemblance, was then known to him only from photographs. Scott sought materials and technology that allowed the assembly of large, volumetric forms in unconventional ways. Scott’s early polychrome sculptures, such as For ’Cello (fibreglass, steel tube and acrylic sheet, 3.96×2.74×1.37 m, 1965; Leicester, Col. Sch. & Colls), were made of such diverse materials as fibreglass, acrylic sheet, glass and metal, used equally for their unique properties and the contrasts their combination afforded. Colour was always a function of materials, a way of differentiating or even of generating forms....

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Parma, Aug 24, 1896; d Parma, Aug 27, 1953).

Italian painter. After serving from 1915 to 1918 in World War I, he studied architecture in Parma (until 1920) at the Accademia di Belle Arte and practised there; he also taught drawing at the Scuola Professionale at Langhirano (1923–5) and began to paint. After moving to Milan in 1925, Soldati infused his reductive urban spaces with elements of Pittura Metafisica. Experiments with primitivism (e.g. Self-portrait, 1930) and ruralism reminiscent of Carlo Carrà’s works (e.g. Seascape at Grottammare, 1931; both Gallarate, Civ. Gal. A. Mod.) constituted his first show at the Galleria del Milione (1931), Milan, where he encountered the abstract art being developed by Mauro Reggiani and Gino Ghiringhelli (1898–1964). Carlo Belli’s introduction to his second show (Boll. Milione, 1933) consequently defined Soldati’s position as ‘order against Babel’, although such works as Composition (1934; Milan, Gal. A. Mod.) demonstrated his persistent interest in Cubism and Purism. Strict linear abstractions (e.g. ...

Article

(b Innsbruck, 1917; d Milan, Dec 31, 2007).

Austrian architect and designer, active in Italy. He was the son of the architect Ettore Sottsass sr. Sottsass jr moved to Turin with his family at the age of 11 and qualified in architecture at the Politecnico, Turin, in 1939. Convinced of the role of colour as creator of space and as a means of breaking with the monochromatic preferences of the Rationalists, he developed a close relationship with avant-garde artists, organizing the first international exhibition of abstract art in Milan. His design for the Grassotti publicity stand (1948), an abstract composition of organic curves in laminated plywood, pays tribute to such Surrealist sculptors as Alexander Calder. In the early 1950s he concentrated on architecture. In the block of workers’ dwellings (1951), Romentino, Novara, he explored the relationship between architecture, terrain and climate, emphasizing the social function of spatial organization in encouraging community interaction. References to vernacular building types and the inclusion of traditional communal spaces, such as staircases and balconies, are also evident in later housing schemes at Arborea (...

Article

Ronald Alley

(b Rodez, Aveyron, Dec 24, 1919).

French painter, printmaker and sculptor. He was greatly impressed as a boy by the Celtic carvings (incised menhirs and graffiti) in the museum at Rodez and by the architecture and sculpture of the Romanesque abbey of Ste-Foy at Conques. In 1938 he went to Paris for the first time, where he visited the Louvre and saw exhibitions of Cézanne and Picasso. With the intention of training to be a drawing teacher, he enrolled in a studio in Paris but was encouraged instead to enter the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts; he was, however, bitterly disappointed by what was being taught there, which seemed to fall far short of what he had just seen, and returned to Rodez. The paintings he was making at this time were of trees in winter, without their leaves, with the black branches forming a tracery against the sky. He was called up in 1941 but demobilized almost at once. He moved to Montpellier to continue his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts there but spent most of the war working clandestinely on a farm in the Montpellier area to avoid forced labour in Germany. He was able to do very little painting during the Occupation, but he became aware of abstract art through his friendship with Sonia Delaunay, whom he met ...

Article

(b Minsk, Belorussia, Nov 21, 1893; d Łódź, Dec 26, 1952).

Polish painter, theoretician, typographer and draughtsman. On completion of his engineering studies at the Moscow Military Academy, he was drafted into the Tsarist army in 1914; seriously wounded, he subsequently began his artistic studies in the post-Revolutionary academies in Moscow, Vkhutemas and Inkhuk. In 1920–22 he was associated with Unovis, and during this period he was influenced by Suprematism, whose principles would in later years form the basis of his polemics. In 1921 he married the sculptor Katarzyna Kobro, and at the beginning of 1922 they both moved to Poland. He published his first articles on the Russian avant-garde in the Kraków periodical Zwrotnica in 1922. Strzemiński organized the Wystawa Nowej Sztuki (‘Exhibition of new art’) in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1923, which acted as a manifesto of Polish Constructivism; he exhibited Suprematist architectural projects, Cubist paintings and Synthetic Compositions as well as Suprematist abstract works constructed from simple forms in contrasting colours. With Strzemiński’s help, in ...

Article

(b Barranco, Lima, July 5, 1925).

Peruvian painter and teacher. He was born to a Polish father and a Peruvian mother. He studied architecture before transferring in 1944 to the Escuela de Artes Plásticas at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima, where he was taught by Adolf Winternitz (b 1906), under whom he developed a vigorous and poetic abstract style. In 1948 he went to Paris, holding his first exhibition there the following year. He spent the next few years in Paris and Florence, absorbing the influence of Leonardo and Rembrandt, as well as that of Picasso and other leading 20th-century artists, and developing a style that combined abstraction with Pre-Columbian themes and forms expressed in bright colours. In 1951 Szyszlo returned to Lima, where his abstract style was something of a novelty.

Following the establishment in the mid-1950s of the Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo in Lima, he formed the group Espacio to help promote contemporary art, attempting to encourage links between the universal approach of abstract art and the national Indigenist style. He expressed this synthesis in such paintings as ...

Article

V. Rakitin

( Bogdanovich )

(b Tiflis [now Tbilisi], Jan 2, 1884; d Erevan, Dec 28, 1928).

Georgian stage designer and painter of Armenian origin, active in Russia . He studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1901–3) but was expelled after a disagreement over the teaching methods. Posted to the Far East during military service, he became acquainted with Far Eastern decorative art, which inspired the works he exhibited with the Blue Rose group after his return to Moscow in 1907 (e.g. The Races, 1905; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.). His work of this time refers to traditional Chinese and medieval European art refracted through Art Nouveau, in an attempt to create a new decorative style in easel painting. In Moscow he often designed the décor for artistic soirées and balls, creating architecturally decorative compositions whose basic components were painted panels. In 1910 he travelled to Italy and in 1912–13 he worked in Paris, where he became acquainted with Sonia Delaunay and Robert Delaunay. In ...