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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

Barbara Küng

(b Prague, April 14, 1888; d Zurich, April 9, 1968).

Swiss architectural historian, critic, teacher and writer. The son of a Swiss industrialist, he first studied mechanical engineering in Vienna. In 1913 he began to study art history in Zurich, continuing in Munich under Heinrich Wölfflin and producing his dissertation, Spätbarocker und romantischer Klassizismus, in 1922. The impressions he gained on his visit to the Bauhaus at Weimar in 1923 and his first meeting with Le Corbusier in 1925 were decisive for his future career. He developed lifelong friendships with the foremost architects of the Modern Movement, including Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Karl Moser, and in 1928 he was among the founders of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, becoming its secretary general and a convinced proponent of its aims (see CIAM). His convictions were expounded mainly in his publications, including his ground-breaking study of the French engineering tradition, Bauen in Frankreich (1928), which played down aesthetic influences and had a wide influence on views of the history of the Modern Movement; it also established his reputation as a proponent of modern architecture, and during the next few years he stressed the exclusion of aesthetic considerations from the deliberations of CIAM....

Article

Tim Benton

[Jeanneret, Charles-Edouard]

(b La Chaux de Fonds, Oct 6, 1887; d Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Alps-Maritimes, France, Aug 27, 1965).

Swiss architect, urban planner, painter, writer, designer and theorist, active mostly in France. In the range of his work and in his ability to enrage the establishment and surprise his followers, he was matched in the field of modern architecture perhaps only by Frank Lloyd Wright. He adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier for his architectural work c. 1920 and for his paintings c. 1930. His visionary books, startling white houses and terrifying urban plans set him at the head of the Modern Movement in the 1920s, while in the 1930s he became more of a complex and sceptical explorer of cultural and architectural possibilities. After World War II he frequently shifted position, serving as ‘Old Master’ of the establishment of modern architecture and as unpredictable and charismatic leader for the young. Most of his great ambitions (urban and housing projects) were never fulfilled. However, the power of his designs to stimulate thought is the hallmark of his career. Before he died, he established the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris to look after and make available to scholars his library, architectural drawings, sketches and paintings....

Article

Richard Guy Wilson

Term applied to the concept of the machine as a source of beauty, a concept particularly important in the development of art and design in Europe and North America in the 20th century. It can be argued, however, that the origins of the machine aesthetic lie in the 19th century, although few 19th-century architects, designers or writers were willing to think of machines as in themselves potential sources of beauty. Such writers as John Ruskin stressed instead the close affinity between organic forms, especially in decorative ornament, and aesthetic pleasure; a wide range of ‘modern’ machines from locomotives to kitchen implements continued therefore to be heavily ornamented. Moreover, the introduction of Mass production techniques, with industrial design replacing craftsmanship, was largely seen as incompatible with individual artistry and therefore aesthetic worth. In the 20th century, however, historians and polemicists of the Modern Movement, including Nikolaus Pevsner, Lewis Mumford, Sigfried Giedion and ...

Article

(b Amersfoort, March 7, 1872; d New York, Feb 1, 1944).

Dutch painter, theorist, and draughtsman. His work marks the transition at the start of the 20th century from the Hague school and Symbolism to Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. His key position within the international avant-garde is determined by works produced after 1920. He set out his theory in the periodical of Stijl, De, in a series of articles that were summarized in a separate booklet published in Paris in 1920 under the title Le Néo-plasticisme (see Neo-plasticism) by Léonce Rosenberg. The essence of Mondrian’s ideas is that painting, composed of the most fundamental aspects of line and colour, must set an example to the other arts for achieving a society in which art as such has no place but belongs instead to the total realization of ‘beauty’. The representation of the universal, dynamic pulse of life, also expressed in modern jazz and the metropolis, was Mondrian’s point of departure. Even in his lifetime he was regarded as the founder of the most ...

Article

Rhys W. Williams

(b Aachen, Jan 13, 1881; d Munich, March 29, 1965).

German art historian. He studied art history at Freiburg, Berlin, and Munich, before submitting his doctoral dissertation in Berne in 1907. This thesis, entitled Abstraktion und Einfühlung: Ein Beitrag zur Stilpsychologie, was first published in Neuwied in 1907 as a dissertation. Somewhat unusually, it was recommended to, and reviewed favourably by, the writer Paul Ernst, whose article in Kunst and Künstler swiftly prompted a publication in book form the following year. It is a peculiar feature of Worringer’s reception that his first publication not only established his reputation as a significant art historian, but has seldom been out of print since 1908. That a doctoral thesis should have had such a profound impact, not only for art historians and theorists, but also for generations of creative writers and intellectuals, is almost unprecedented.

Abstraktion und Einfühlung takes as its starting-point Theodor Lipps’s theory of empathy, the notion that the work of art maximizes our capacity for empathy, that beauty derives from our sense of being able to identify with an object. While conceding that a mimetic urge exists in man, drawing on the ideas of Alois Riegl, Worringer denies any necessary connection between mimesis and art: if Egyptian art was highly stylized, he argued, this was not because its artists were incompetent and failed to reproduce external reality accurately, but because Egyptian art answered a radically different psychological need. In mimetic works, he argued, we derive satisfaction from an ‘objectified delight in the self’; the aim of the artist is to maximize our capacity for empathizing with the work. This kind of art springs from a confidence in the world as it is, a satisfaction in its forms, something embodied in Classical and Renaissance art. By contrast, the urge to abstraction, exemplified variously by Egyptian, Byzantine, Gothic, or primitive art, articulates a wholly different response to the universe: it expresses man’s insecurity and seeks to answer transcendental or spiritual needs. Thus in certain historical periods man is confidently assertive and finds satisfaction in ‘objectified delight in the self’, abandoning himself in contemplation of the external world, but in periods of anxiety and uncertainty he seeks to abstract objects from their contingency, transforming them into permanent, absolute, transcendental forms....