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About this term

Source: Oxford University Press

Term coined by Piet Mondrian and first used in 1919 as the title of a collection of his writings published by the dealer Léonce Rosenberg. It gained currency as a descriptive term applied to Mondrian’s theories of art and to his style of painting, in which a grid, delineated by black lines, was filled with blocks of primary colour . The original term applied to some of his principles was nieuwe beelding (new imagery); he also used abstract-reële schilderkunst (abstract-real painting) and Neo-Cubism. Neo-plasticism applied to all aspects of design that were part of daily life. The evanescence of natural shapes was reduced to a few essential expressive means: horizontal and vertical lines, areas of primary colour and black and white. For Mondrian a composition had to present a dynamic balance, in which the internal was externalized and the external internalized. Mondrian published Le Néo-plasticisme while in Paris, having become convinced that his theories, published in De Stijl, were almost unknown beyond his native country. A collection of his articles was translated into German and published in 1925 as Neue Gestaltung as the fifth in the series of Bauhausbücher. His theories were published in English for the first time in 1937 under the title of ‘Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art’ in Circle: An International Survey of Constructivism.

No distinct school of Neo-plasticists ever existed, although some works by artists including Jean Gorin, César Domela, Jean Helion and Burgoyne Diller may be described as Neo-plasticist. Mondrian’s theories were to a large extent disseminated by verbal communication through numerous discussions with other painters, sculptors, architects and writers. Neo-plasticism was promoted from 1929 by the movement Cercle et carré, founded by Michel Seuphor, and three issues of its eponymous journal (1930). Mondrian and other artists exhibited in an exhibition of Neo-plasticism in 1930 at the Galerie 23 in Paris. The style spread to the USA when Mondrian visited in 1940 and became a member of American abstract artists, many of whom experimented with Neo-plasticism.

H. Henkels
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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