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ARTH209: 20th Century Art

Unit 4: Suprematism, Constructivism, and De Stijl   In this unit, we will explore the development of abstract art in Russia and Holland in the first decades of the 20th century. In Russia, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 led to a flowering of modernist styles. Many Russian artists believed the revolution would lead to a better life for all Russians and were eager to show how the visual arts could help transform society. Kazimir Malevich, the founder of Suprematism, created a radically simplified style that valued simplicity and purity. Malevich wanted to break with the art of the past and create works that could convey both rationality and spirituality. The Constructivists also sought a simplified style, one that they hoped would eventually be used to mass produce aesthetically pleasing objects for everyday life. In Holland, the artists associated with De Stijl (The Style) shared the Russians’ interests in simplicity, purity, rationality, and spirituality. Like their Russian contemporaries, Dutch artists Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg held the utopian belief that art could transform everyday life. The destruction caused by the first World War (1914–1918) was a major impetus for all these artists. Repulsed by the war’s carnage, they hoped to create art that would help humanity build better societies, thereby creating new and important social roles for themselves.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 6.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 3 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify and describe the visual characteristics and technical principles of Suprematism, Constructivism, and De Stijl; - demonstrate knowledge of the individual artists’ contributions to the development of Suprematism, Constructivism, and De Stijl; - explain the utopian goals for art produced in Russia and Holland in the years immediately following World War I; and - explain the sources and meanings of the abstract works produced by the artists associated with Suprematism, Constructivism, and De Stijl.

4.1 Kazimir Malevich and Suprematism   - Reading: The Art Story: “Suprematism” Link: The Art Story: “Suprematism” (HTML)

 Instructions: First, read over this page as an introduction to
Suprematism. Then click on each of the images under “Artworks” at
the top of the page and read the accompanying text. Finally, click
on “Detail View” under Kazimir Malevich on the right side of the
page and read the text about this Russian artist who invented
Suprematism. Click on each of the images under “Major Works” at the
top of the page to read descriptions of each art work.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour and 15
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on this webpage.
  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Beth Harris, Sal Khan, and Steven Zucker’s “Art & Context: Monet's Cliff Walk at Pourville and Malevich's White on White” Link: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Beth Harris, Sal Khan, and Steven Zucker’s “Art & Context: Monet's Cliff Walk at Pourville and Malevich's White on White (Flash)

    Instructions: Watch this video, which compares Kazimir Malevich’s White on White to Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville. Pay particular attention to how the speakers link Malevich’s work to the political situation in Russia at the time of its creation.
     
    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareALike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Khan Academy. 

4.2 Russian Constructivism   - Reading: The Art Story: “Constructivism” Link: The Art Story: “Constructivism” (HTML)

 Instructions: First, read this page as an introduction to
Constructivism. Remember to click on “More” after the section
“Beginnings.” Then click on each of the images under “Analysis of
Art Works” at the top of the page and read the accompanying text.
Finally, click on the “Vladimir Tatlin Page,” “El Lissitzky Page,”
and “Alexander Rodchenko Page” tabs on the right side of the page
and read about these three Constructivist artists. Consider the
similarities and differences between the ideas and goals of the
Constructivist and Suprematist artists.  

 Reading these essays and identifying the similarities and
differences between Suprematism and Constructivism should take
approximately 2 hours.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Philadelphia Museum of Art: El Lissitzky’s “Proun 2” Link: Philadelphia Museum of Art: El Lissitzky’s “Proun 2” (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please press the Start button “Audio Stop 412” to hear a short discussion of Lissitzky’s work. Also, read the text on the webpage for more information on the work.

    Listening to the discussion and reading the material should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Michael Craig and Copernicus Films: “Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-Garde” Link: YouTube: Michael Craig and Copernicus Films: “Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-Garde” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the film, which discusses Alexander Rodchenko, one of the main contributors to Constructivist art.

    Watching the film should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3 De Stijl and Piet Mondrian   - Reading: The Art Story: “De Stijl” Link: The Art Story: “De Stijl” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the essay and remember to click on “More” after
the section “Beginnings.” Then click on each of the images at the
top of the page under “Analysis of Art Works.” Click on the “Piet
Mondrian Page” tab from the column on the right. Finally, click on
the images under “Analysis of Piet Mondrian’s Art Works” and read
the brief descriptions of each painting. As you read about the De
Stijl artists, think of the relationship their art had to
contemporary events. Note the artists’ utopian desire to create an
art of simplicity and purity, one that would be universally
understood and that would help fashion a new, egalitarian society
after the horrors of World War I.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour and 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation: “Piet Mondrian” Link: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation: “Piet Mondrian” (HTML)

    Instructions: Click on the link to access the Solomon R. Guggenheim’s page for Mondrian. Then click on the following paintings to see larger images and to read brief analyses of each one: Still Life with Gingerpot II; Composition 8; and Composition No. 1: Lozenge with Four Lines.

    Reading this essay should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “De Stijl: Mondrian's Composition No. II, with Red and Blue” Link: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “De Stijl: Mondrian's Composition No. II, with Red and Blue (Flash)

    Instructions: Watch this video, which discusses Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. II, with Red and Blue.

    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareALike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Khan Academy. 

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 4 Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 4 Quiz” (HTML)

    Instructions: Complete this assessment to gauge your understanding of the topics covered in this unit. The correct answers will be displayed when you click the “Submit” button.
     
    Completing the quiz and reviewing, if necessary, should take approximately 30 minutes.