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Article

International group of painters and sculptors, founded in Paris in February 1931 and active until 1936. It succeeded another short-lived group, Cercle et Carré, which had been formed in 1929 with similar intentions of promoting and exhibiting abstract art. Its full official title was Abstraction-Création: Art non-figuratif. The founding committee included Auguste Herbin (president), Georges Vantongerloo (vice-president), Hans Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Georges Valmier and František Kupka.

Membership of Abstraction-Création was in principle open to all abstract artists, but the dominant tendency within the group was towards the geometric formality championed by Theo van Doesburg and by other artists associated with De Stijl. Works such as Jean Hélion’s Ile-de-France (1935; London, Tate), which came to typify the group’s stance, owed more to the post-war ‘rappel à l’ordre’ interpreted by the Purists in terms of a ‘classic’ and ‘architectonic’ ordering of art, design and architecture, than to the biomorphic abstraction derived from Surrealism. During its brief existence the group published annual ...

Article

Greta Stroeh

[Jean] (Peter Wilhelm)

(b Strassburg, Germany [now Strasbourg, France], Sept 16, 1886; d Basle, Switzerland, June 7, 1966).

French sculptor, painter, collagist, printmaker, and poet of German birth. The son of a German father and French Alsatian mother, he developed a cosmopolitan outlook from an early age and as a mature artist maintained close contact with the avant-garde throughout Europe. He was a pioneer of abstract art and one of the founders of Dada in Zurich, but he also participated actively in both Surrealism and Constructivism. While he prefigured junk art and the Fluxus movement in his incorporation of waste material, it was through his investigation of biomorphism and of chance and accident that he proved especially influential on later 20th-century art in liberating unconscious creative forces.

Following a brief period at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Strasbourg (1900–01), Arp received instruction from 1901 from a friend and neighbour, the painter and printmaker Georges Ritleng (1875–1972). He then attended the Kunstschule in Weimar (1904–7) and the Académie Julian in Paris (...

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

Michael Flintholm

(Kristian Torbensen)

(b Odder, nr Århus, March 6, 1910; d Indland, Denmark, May 1, 2004).

Danish sculptor, painter and writer. He trained at the Kunsthåndværkerskole in Copenhagen with Bizzie Høyer from 1930 to 1932 and at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi (1933). Bille made his début as a sculptor at the Kunstnernes Efterårsundstilling (Artists’ Autumn Exhibition) in Copenhagen in 1931. He became interested in abstract art very early in his career; in 1933, with the artist Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen, he was one of the first artists in Denmark to exhibit abstract sculptures and paintings. In 1934 Bille was a founder-member with Richard Mortensen and Bjerke-Petersen of the artists’ group Linien (The Line), whose journal of the same name he also co-edited. During Bille’s many trips abroad in the 1930s he was particularly stimulated by the work of Alberto Giacometti, Hans Arp and Max Ernst. His originality was nevertheless clearly apparent in the early sculptures, which often used animals as subjects, for example Marten (1931...

Article

Christina Lodder

revised by 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

(b Le Havre, July 31, 1901; d Paris, May 12, 1985).

French painter, sculptor, printmaker, collector and writer (see fig.). He was temperamentally opposed to authority and any suggestion of discipline and devised for himself a coherent, if rebellious, attitude towards the arts and culture. For all his maverick challenges to the values of the art world, Dubuffet’s career exemplified the way in which an avant-garde rebel could encounter notoriety, then fame and eventual reverence. His revolt against beauty and conformity has come to be seen as a symptomatic and appreciable influence in 20th-century culture.

The son of a prosperous and authoritarian wine-merchant in Le Havre, Dubuffet left home for Paris at 17 to pursue irregular studies in the arts. But, growing sceptical of the artist’s privileged status and savouring an affinity with ‘the common man’, he abandoned painting in ...

Article

Philip Cooper

(b Paris, May 16, 1898; d Châtenay-Malabry, Seine-et-Oise, July 21, 1964).

French painter, printmaker, illustrator and sculptor. An illegitimate child, he was given his mother’s surname but was brought up by his grandmother. On the death of both his father and grandmother in 1908 he joined his mother in London, where he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1912. Finding the teaching too traditional, he left to enrol at the Slade School of Fine Art, which had a reputation for being more avant-garde, though he was again disappointed. He then decided to work alone and devoted himself to painting, concentrating on nudes and still-lifes. He also regularly visited the Tate Gallery, where he was particularly impressed by the works of Turner. In 1917 he was called up for the French Army, but because of his poor health he was soon transferred to the auxiliary corps. Suffering from a pulmonary complaint, he lived in the Tyrol from 1920 to 1921 and was finally discharged from the army in ...

Article

Renato Barilli

(b Rosario, Santa Fé, Feb 19, 1899; d Comabbio, nr Varese, Sept 7, 1968).

Italian painter, sculptor and theorist of Argentine birth. He moved with his family to Milan in 1905 but followed his father back to Buenos Aires in 1922 and there established his own sculpture studio in 1924. On settling again in Milan he trained from 1928 to 1930 at the Accademia di Brera, where he was taught by the sculptor Adolfo Wildt; Wildt’s devotion to the solemn and monumental plasticity of the Novecento Italiano group epitomized the qualities against which Fontana was to react in his own work. Fontana’s sculpture The Harpooner (gilded plaster, h. 1.73 m, 1934; Milan, Renzo Zavanella priv. col., see 1987 exh. cat., p. 118) is typical of his work of this period, with a dynamic nervousness in the thin shape of the weapon poised to deliver a final blow and in the coarse and formless plinth. Soon afterwards, together with other northern Italian artists such as Fausto Melotti, Fontana abandoned any lingering Novecento elements in favour of a strict and coherent form of abstraction. In ...

Article

Francis Summers

(b Brunswick, ME, May 3, 1961).

American sculptor and painter active in Sweden. He studied at the State University of New York, Purchase, graduating in 1985. His work draws on his experience of working methods in the carpentry business. Unwilling to interfere with the material he chooses to work with, such as kitchen cabinets or unplastered walls, he reframes the work as a kind of pragmatic abstraction. His arrangements of modular furniture stripped of its original function, as in Surface Habitat for Appliance (1997; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 129) closely resemble the work of the De Stijl group, bringing to mind especially the compositions of Piet Mondrian. Ketter’s recreation of dry wall surfaces as paintings, such as his White Wall Painting (1992; see 1995 exh. cat., p. 14) could be described as a reversal of the conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner’s removal of an area of wall surfaces from various gallery sites in 1968...

Article

Ulrike Lehmann

(b Nice, April 28, 1928; d Paris, June 6, 1962).

French painter, sculptor, performance artist and writer.

He was the son of the Dutch-born painter Fred Klein (b 1898), whose work was representational, and Marie Raymond (b 1908), who developed a reputation in the 1950s as an abstract artist, and whose abstraction was influential on the development of her son’s work. Although he had had no formal art training, he was already making his first serious attempts at painting by 1946 and showing his interest in the absoluteness of colour by formulating his first theories about monochrome. In 1946 he befriended Arman, with whom he was later to be associated in the Nouveau Réalisme movement, and the writer Claude Pascal, whom he met at a judo class. Together they developed their interest in esoteric writing and East Asian religions. Klein became a student of the Rosicrucian Fellowship in 1946 and was influenced both by its mystical philosophy and by judo. In ...

Article

(b St Ives, Cornwall, Feb 8, 1918; d Taunton, Somerset, Aug 31, 1964).

English painter and sculptor. After private lessons with Borlase Smart (1881–1947) in 1936, he trained at the Penzance School of Art (1936–7). In 1937 he met Adrian Stokes, who is thought to have given him his first introduction to contemporary painting and sculpture, and whose notion of the ‘identification of inner states with specific objects, animate or inanimate in the outside world’, in his book Colour and Form (1937), matches Lanyon’s mature aesthetic. Lanyon’s work is central to any assessment of St Ives painting, since he experienced at first hand the invigorating influence of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, when they moved to St Ives in 1939. Private lessons with Nicholson led Lanyon to make reliefs and constructions, for example White Track (mahogany, jarrah wood, three-ply and string, 1939–40; Mrs Sheila Lanyon priv. col., see 1978 exh. cat., p. 8); these comprised stacked planes or implied movement. Lanyon also made a number of constructions directly inspired by Gabo’s poetic spatial forms, or indirectly perhaps also by Hepworth’s more figurative curving forms. After World War II he was actively involved with the Crypt group and the Penwith School of Art....

Article

Philip Cooper

(b Boulogne-sur-Mer, Jan 27, 1921).

French painter, sculptor, designer and illustrator. He left Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1933 to attend the Lycée Hoche in Versailles, where he learnt Greek, Russian and Spanish. Over the next few years he was educated at various secondary and university institutions in Rouen, Cambrai and Douai, studying law at Douai in 1941. He started to paint landscapes and portraits in oils in 1942 and the following year taught English at the Lycée in Douai. He worked as an interpreter for the US Army at Cambrai in 1944 and in that year read Edward Crankshaw’s Joseph Conrad: Some Aspects of the Art of the Novel (London, 1936), which impressed upon him the importance of style; he cited it as an influence on his first experiments with abstraction, such as Inception (1944; artist’s col., see Quignon-Fleuret, p. 9), with dark amorphous forms suggestive of primordial creation. The following year he began to use drip techniques, as in ...

Article

José Corredor-Matheos

(b Barcelona, April 20, 1893; d Palma de Mallorca, Dec 25, 1983).

Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker and decorative artist (see fig.). He was never closely aligned with any movement and was too retiring in his manner to be the object of a personality cult, like his compatriot Picasso, but the formal and technical innovations that he sustained over a very long career guaranteed his influence on 20th-century art. A pre-eminent figure in the history of abstraction and an important example to several generations of artists around the world, he remained profoundly attached to the specific circumstances and environment that shaped his art in his early years. An acute balance of sophistication and innocence and a deeply rooted conviction about the relationship between art and nature lie behind all his work and account in good measure for the wide appeal that his art has continued to exercise across many of the usual barriers of style.

Article

Bengt von Bonsdorff

(b Helsinki, Aug 19, 1924).

Finnish painter, sculptor and printmaker. He studied at the Central School of Industrial Arts in Helsinki (1946–9) and practised drawing at the Free Art School. His earliest work consisted mostly of figure drawings and still-lifes (e.g. the coloured wood engraving Chair Still-life, 1946; see 1982 exh. cat., no. 1). He was drawn to Synthetic Cubism in the spirit of Juan Gris and to faces and masks similar to those in the works of Picasso or in non-Western art. These representations soon gave way to the purely abstract. Nordström first exhibited in 1947 at Nuorten näyttely (‘Exhibition by young artists’; Helsinki, A. Exh. Hall). Two years later he held his first one-man exhibition. It was the first in Finland that consisted entirely of paintings influenced by Constructivism. Nordström developed his abstract programme in a very short time at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s. It was then that the foundation of his painting was laid, both technically and formally. This also applied to the prints and three-dimensional constructions, which were small at first (e.g. the coloured wood engraving ...

Article

(b Snovsk, Russia [now Shchors, Ukraine], March 27, 1922; d New York, NY, Feb 4, 2007).

American painter and sculptor. Born shortly after the political execution of his father, Jevel Demikovsky, in 1921, he was taken to New York by his mother and grandmother in 1923; his mother remarried in 1926. He showed an early love for drawing and attended art classes on Saturday mornings in New York in 1935. He was much impressed by seeing works by Rembrandt at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and in 1940 he studied landscape painting informally under Samuel Rothbort (1882–1971). From 1940 to 1942 he studied at the National Academy of Design in New York under Sidney Dickinson (1890–1980) while taking sculpture classes in the evenings at the Beaux-Arts Institute, working in clay. During this period he first came into contact with abstract art in New York at the Museum of Non-objective Painting, which later served as the basis of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In ...

Article

Colin C. Sanderson

[Pevzner, Natan Borisovich]

(b Oryol, Jan 18, 1886; d Paris, April 12, 1962).

French painter and sculptor of Russian birth. Son of an industrialist and brother of the sculptor Naum Gabo, he grew up in Bryansk. He studied at the School of Art in Kiev (1902–9), where according to Gabo he first met Alexander Archipenko, and then spent a three-month probationary period at the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. Among his early paintings, The Giant (1907; priv. col., see Pevsner 1964, p. 35) shows the influence of the Symbolist painter Mikhail Vrubel’, but Pevsner was also impressed by the Russian Byzantine tradition.

Pevsner travelled to Munich and Paris at the end of 1911 and first saw works by the Cubists at the Salon des Indépendants in 1912. On his second visit to Paris, in 1913, he resumed his acquaintance with Archipenko and met Modigliani and other Cubist painters. Drawings he did in Paris and still-lifes of this period show a clear yet tentative Cubist tendency. Pevsner returned to Bryansk at the beginning 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

[Alexander] (Mikhaylovich)

(b St Petersburg, Nov 23, 1891; d Moscow, Dec 3, 1956).

Russian painter, sculptor, designer and photographer. He was a central exponent of Russian Constructivism, owing much to the pre-Revolutionary work of Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, and he was closely involved in the cultural debates and experiments that followed the Revolution of 1917. In 1921 he denounced, on ideological grounds, easel painting and fine art, and he became an exponent of Productivism (see Constructivism, §1) in many fields, including poster design, furniture, photography and film. He resumed painting in his later years. His work was characterized by the systematic way in which from 1916 he sought to reject the conventional roles of self-expression, personal handling of the medium and tasteful or aesthetic predilections. His early nihilism and condemnation of the concept of art make it problematic even to refer to Rodchenko as an artist: in this respect his development was comparable to that of Dada, although it also had roots in the anarchic activities of Russian Futurist groups....

Article

Karin von Maur

(b Stuttgart, Sept 4, 1888; d Baden-Baden, April 13, 1943).

German painter, sculptor, choreographer and stage designer. After the death of his parents he lived with his sister at Göppingen, and in Stuttgart from 1903 to 1905 he served an apprenticeship at a workshop specializing in marquetry while attending classes at the Kunstgewerbeschule. He continued his studies on a bursary from 1906 to 1911 at the Kunstakademie in Stuttgart under the plein-air landscape painters Christian Landenberger (1862–1927) and Friedrich von Keller (1840–1914). In 1911–12 he lived in Berlin, where he produced paintings such as Hunting Lodge, Grunewald (1911; Stuttgart, Staatsgal.) and Self-portrait (1912; Stuttgart, Staatsgal.) under the influence of Cubism. After returning to Stuttgart, Schlemmer studied under Adolf Hölzel, whose theory of pictorial methods made him a pioneer of abstract art and who gathered around him an international circle of students that included Willi Baumeister and the Swiss artists Otto Meyer-Amden and Johannes Itten, with whom Schlemmer became friends....