An Essay on Modernism

Topics: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Modernism, De Stijl Pages: 8 (2149 words) Published: April 10, 2013
Modernism describes the ideology of the art and design that were produced during the modernist period. There has been a lot of controversy about when modernism started, yet many believe it initiated sometime in the late 19th century and continued to the early 20th century. The modernist movement was meant to be a break from traditions and it was set up to separate the value of certain works from the conservative realism. For instance, Unlike the traditional art that was aesthetic, this movement was more about space and form. In modernist design, shape and organization of products and buildings were based on their functional requirements. As a result, designs became simpler without the traditional decorative concepts. The idea behind the plain designs also was to make the production easier for mass-production. Furthermore, this avant-garde movement gave artists the freedom to create unconventional subject matter, style and experimental techniques.

Additionally, after the first World War, different groups of international contributors were found across Europe. In Holland, Theo Van Doesburg and a small group of artists, founded a movement and magazine named De Stijl in 1917. The iconic elements in the works of supporters of this artistic movement were simple compositions of vertical and horizontal lines with black, grey, white and primary colors. In Germany, modernism started in Bauhaus (1919-1933), a school of art and design. It was founded by Walter Gopius and directed by the architect, Mies van der Rohe in its last year. The main purpose of this school was to focus on functional design in architecture and the applied arts.

1. Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building, St. Louis, 1890-92.

As in 1890s, the 10-story Wainwright building in Chicago was considered as a skyscraper, which’s exterior was designed for its interior purpose. The first floor was designed for shops, and the public offices were on the second floor and the next 7 floors were dedicated to “honeycomb offices” and the last floor was where the building machinery were located at (van Zanten, 2000).

This tall building is consisted of mostly plain surfaces with a bit of ornamentation which doesn’t affect the purpose of the building.

2. Ford Model T, 1910

Henry Ford’s (1863-1947) aim was to build affordable cars for everyone. Ford model T was introduced in 1908, at first it was handmade individually like other cars in that time, but a few years later, Ford invented an assembly line which was a breakthrough in the mass production of the Ford Model T. The assembly line made the Ford company the world’s biggest car manufacturer with more than15,000,000 Model Ts built and sold (Model T Facts). Due to the mass production the prices were dropped and the living standards increased.

3. Piet Mondrian’s Composition A, 1923

Mondrian (1872-1944) was one of the proponents of De Stijl movement. He simplified visual art so people from any background are able to understand his works. His compositions are consisted of straight lines, right angles and primary colors (red, blue and yellow) plus white, grey and black, and forms and shapes are very outstanding. This image reflects De Stijl’s idea of utopia that is full of spiritual harmony and order.

4. Rietveld Schröder House, 1924

The house was designed by the architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1965) and was built in Utrecht for Mrs. Truus Schröder (1889-1985) in 1924. The eye catching, plastic-like exterior is in contrast with the previous architecture. The interior space of the house is both physically and visually separated by use of movable panels and colors. This building represents a three dimensional idea of De Stijl movement, from the use of colors to the vertical and horizontal walls and lines.

5. Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair, 1929

Originally designed by the German Bauhaus architect, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe...

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Online Images
Barcelona Chair (1929) [online image]
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Composition A (1923) [online image]
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