constructivism // synopsis
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constructivism synopsis

Constructivist Art (Constructivism) is a term used to define a type of totally abstract (non-representational) relief construction, sculpture, kinetics and painting. The work is ordered and often minimal, geometric, spatial, architectonic and experimental in the use of industrial material.

Graham PotterThe principles of constructivism theory are derived from three main movements that evolved in the early part of the 20th century: Suprematism in Russia, De Stijl (Neo Plasticism) in Holland and the Bauhaus in Germany.

Constructivism has been closely associated with architecture and the applied arts from its beginning. These early movements were idealistic, seeking a new order in art and architecture that dealt with social and economic problems.

origins of contructivism

RUSSIA 1910-1921:: During the early part of this period the Russian avant-garde embraced Cubism and Futurism and moved toward a non-objective art (art without subject) exemplified by Kasmir Malevich's development of Suprematism. In 1913-14 Vladimir Tatlin made and exhibited several relief constructions using industrial materials inspired by the Furturist Umberto Boccioni's vision of 'plastic configurations in space' and the 3D collages seen in Picasso's Paris studio. Tatlin used the term Constructivism to describe these works.

The first Constructivist manifesto appeared in 1921 when the First Working Group of Constructivists was formed in Moscow. Other developments principally in Holland and Germany led the movement to expand and become international.

Key artists: Vladimir Tatlin, Kasmir Malevich, Liubov Popova, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Vavara Stepanova, Vasily Kandinsky, Naum Gabo, Antoine Pevsner, El Lissitzky.

origins of contructivism

DE STIJL 1917- 1931 :: Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian formed the Dutch De Stijl group in 1917. Mondrian, who spent most of his time in Paris, developed his distinctive style of non-representational grid painting independently from the Russians. Influenced by Bart Van der Leck he moved from subject-based abstraction to establish the strictly horizontal / vertical format that became known as Neo Plasticism, the visual vocabulary of De Stijl.

Key members: Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, Gerrit Rietveld, Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, Georges Vantongerloo, Jean (Hans) Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, El Lissitzky, Vilmos Huszar, Ceasar Domela.

origins of contructivism

BAUHAUS 1919-1933 :: The Bauhaus was opened in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius as a 'Guild of Craftsmen without Class Distinction' (between artists and artisans).

Graham Potter Block PrintPrincipals of the non-representational groups: De Stijl, Constructivism and Suprematism, were absorbed into the teaching curriculum at the Bauhaus and deeply influenced the development of art, architecture and industrial design as International Constructivism.

Key members: Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Max Bill, Josef Albers, Johannes Itten.


The increasingly inhospitable environment for modern art in Russia and Germany between the wars led many artists and architects to Paris, Britain and eventually the United States.

origins of contructivism

PARIS -1939 :: Two significant groups were formed by Michel Seuphor and others; Cercle et Carre in 1930 followed by Abstraction-Creation in 1932. Both produced publications and arranged exhibitions.

Key members: Micheal Seuphor, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Jean Gorin, Le Corbusier, August Herbin, Georges Vantongerloo, Naum Gabo, Piet Mondrian, Otto Frieundlich, Fritz Glarner, Kurt Schwitters, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gilderwart, Ben Nicholson

origins of contructivism

BRITAIN -1945 :: There were few exponents of abstract art in Britain before the war. Ben Nicholson became the leading figure during this period and in 1937 collaborated with Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin to edit an important publication, Circle: International Survey of Constructivist Art.

Mondrian stayed in London from 1938-40 before moving to New York, but Gabo who arrived in 1935 spent the war years in St.Ives (Carbis Bay) along with the Nicholson's and was to have a lasting influence on a younger learning generation of Cornish based artists, particularly John Wells and Peter Lanyon. In the immediate post war era St.Ives became a major centre for the modern movement in Britain.

Artists: Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Arthur Jackson, John Wells.

Marine Construction


The new International Style architecture had the greatest impact in Britain between the wars. In a brief flourishing of modernism, indigenous and émigré architects were producing building and industrial design of high quality.

Architects: Wells Coates, E.Maxwell Fry, Oliver Hill, Amyas Connell, Christopher Nicholson, Eric Mendelsohn, Serge Chermayeff, Berthold Lubetkin, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius.

origins of contructivism

Geometric StudyNEW YORK :: With the outbreak of war in Europe the art world centre shifted to the United States, particularly New York. Charles Biederman and Burgoyne Diller were among the first truly non-objective American artists and were both adherents of Neo Plasticism. In 1948 Biederman published his influential book Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge, started in 1938.

In 1933 the experimental Black Mountain College was opened in North Carolina with Josef Albers as director of the art department from 1933-1944. The Institute of Design (New Bauhaus) was founded in Chicago by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1937.

origins of contructivism

POST WAR ERA :: During the 1950's New York became established as the modern art capital of the world with Abstract Expressionism the main focus. Constructivist thought was absorbed by many artists and architects and is evident in movements such as Minimalism and Brutalism.

The 1960's were a particularly fertile period for Constructivist Art in Britain, with artists: Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Anthony Hill, Gillian Wise, John Ernest, Victor Passmore, Anthony Caro, Robert Adams, Bridget Riley.

Other noteworthy artists in the post war era are: Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Charles Biederman, Burgoyne Diller, Illya Bototowsky, Carl Andre, Robert Ryman, Alexander Calder, John McLaughlin, David Smith, Joost Baljeu, Jean Gorin, Josef Albers, Max Bill, Alan Reynolds, John Wells.

contructivism now

Block PrintCURRENT TRENDS :: The most interesting recent developments in Constructivism have been in the field of architecture. The aesthetic of Deconstruction is derived from the work of the French philosopher Jaques Derrida and is typified by the building and designs of Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid.

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