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  • portrait Nelly and Theo van Doesburg
    Theo van Doesburg (b. 1883, ps for Christiaan Emil Marie Küpper) delivered his first lectures on modern art in 1916. In this early lectures he already shows evidence of his later fully theorized belief that art could lead humanity to a higher spiritual realm in which political and economic conflict would be dissolved. During 1916 and 1917, Van Doesburg formulated a theory of art in which the cooperation between architecture and the arts would create a new universal and transcendental style based on simplified geometric elements. He devoted his career to spreading this view through his influential magazine De Stijl, and in 1918, with Piet Mondriaan and others, founded an artists' group under the same name.
  • Dada first appeared in De Stijl in December 1919, when Van Doesburg made reference to his receipt of Dada materials from Tristan Tzara, and in February he published a quote from Tzara's 'Manifeste Dada 1918'. Also that month, Van Doesburg went to Paris, where he and Mondriaan attended Dada soirées and viewed an exhibition of the works of members oí the Paris Dada group, Jean Crotti, Suzanne Duchamp, Francis picabia, and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. Throughout 1920, Van Doesburg contacted Dada groups in Berlin and Paris and received materials from Richard Huelsenbeck and Picabia, which he used as the basis for an article introducing Dada ideas to the Netherlands that appeared in De Nieuwe Amsterdammer in May 1920. In mid-1920 he adopted a pseudonym, I.K. Bonset, under which he contributed Dada poems and collages to De Stijl, the first of which appeared in May.
  • In 1922 he founded the Dada magazine Mécano, in which Van Doesburg appeared as the arts editor and Bonset as the literary editor. In 1923 Van Doesburg embarked with Kurt Schwitters on a Dada tour of Holland. The plans for the tour grew out of successful Mécano soirées held in Weimar during the International Congress of Constructivists and Dada, and further evenings in Jena and in Hannover. The Dada tour in Holland visited about a dozen towns. Intended to introduce Dada to interested members of the Dutch public, it was thus organized in cooperation with local artists, organizations. Van Doesburg's pamphlet 'Wat is Dada?', which surveyed and summarized dadaist programmatics from Huelsenbeck to Picabia, was for sale after each performance.
  • After the Dada campaign, the dadaist impulse quickly faded in the Netherlands. Van Doesburg continued to publish De Stijl. In 1931, the year of his death, he brought out a new periodical, Art concret, devoted to the search for universal form. He was memorialized in the final issue of De Stljl, which appeared in January 1932.
  • TEXT CREDITS
    Shortened version of Amanda L. Hockensmith, 'Theo van Doesburg', published in Leah Dickerman (ed.), Dada. Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris (National Gallery of Art : Washington DC 2005) 467. The article is translated in French and published in Dada / Catalogue publié sous la direction de Laurent Le Bon (Éditions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 968-971.
  • IMAGE CREDITS
    Nelly and Theo van Doesburg, by Lucia Moholy, 19212/22 [Theo van Doesburg’s archive and library, RKD, The Hage]
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