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Composition with Red, Black, Yellow, Blue and Gray, 1921

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

Oil on canvas, 80 x 50 cm
Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands
© Kunstmuseum Den Haag
© 2020 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust

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In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, a school of architecture, art, crafts and design in Weimar. The First World War had acted as a proving-ground for technological innovation in the early years of the 20th century: however, the end of the war represented, above all, the development of industry as a tool for social reconstruction. Industrial production thus underwent a surge during this period: not only in practical terms, but also as a symbol of hope. The Bauhaus embraced the importance of industry and applied the concepts of industrial production to artistic creation, and at the same time avoided making distinctions between disciplines or establishing hierarchies among them. In the words of Gropius:


The Bauhaus proposed to bring together, in a single unit, all of the forms of artistic creation; to reunify, like indivisible elements within a new architecture, all of the disciplines of artistic practice: sculpture, painting, the applied arts, and crafts. The ultimate – albeit distant – aim of the Bauhaus is the unitary work of art, the “grand architecture”, in which there is no dividing line between monumental art and decorative art.


As indicated in Barr’s diagram, the Bauhaus drew inspiration from both Constructivism and Suprematism. However, it also inherited influences from Neoplasticism, which sought the full integration of the arts, with a universal rather than individual vocation. In the search for this universality, the most appropriate path seemed to be that of abstract beauty. Piet Mondrian, one of the main exponents of Neoplasticism, explained the movement in the following terms:


The true modern artist “consciously” perceives the abstraction of the emotion of beauty, and “consciously” recognizes aesthetic emotions as cosmic and universal. This conscious recognition has as its outcome an abstract creation, and points the way towards the purely universal.