Bart van der Leck’s “The Place of Modern Painting in Architecture” (1917)

Translated from the Dutch by Hans L.C. Jaffé.

In De Stijl.  (H. N. Abrams.  New York:1971).

• • •

The modern painter wishes to abolish the ‘separateness’ of painting, both in its internal and external aspects.

More strongly than before, the notion is beginning to take root that painting has no other purpose than plasticism: to express plastically without fantasizing or mood and without ephemeral conflict.

No longer is it isolated or piecemeal applied painting for purposes of illustration, no longer is it decoration or beautification, but the plastic expression of reality.

Painting has developed independently during the course of time, separately from architecture, and through experiment and the destruction of the old and the natural, it has come to develop its own particular character, both formally and spiritually.  It always requires the plane surface, however, and it will always remain its ultimate wish to make direct use of the necessary practical plane created by architecture.  More than that, in its extension from the individual to the universal it will claim from the building, as its rightful domain, the whole of the color concept and that [94] part of the form concept appropriate to painting.  If architects are looking for a painter who can supply the desired image, the modern painter is no less seeking an architect who can offer the appropriate conditions for the joint achievement of a true unity of plastic expression.  We ask of the architect ‘self restraint,’ because he has so much in his hands that does not really belong to architecture and which, in its execution, must be understood completely differently from the way the architect understands it.

Building is quite clearly something different from painting and stands in a quite different relationship with the infinite.  We list below five ways in which building differs from painting, from painting as, in the last analysis, it really is.

1.  Modern painting is destruction of naturalistic plastic expression as against the naturalistic plastic constructional character of architecture

2.  Modern painting is open, in contrast with the combining, closed nature of architecture.

3.  Modern painting is color and space-imparting, in contrast with the colorless and plane surface character of architecture.

4.  Modern painting is plastic expression in spatial flatness: extension, in contrast with the space-restricting flatness of architecture.

5.  Modern painting is plastic balance, as against the constructional balance (load and support) of architecture.

Modern painting reduces corporeality to flatness and, through the space concept, arrives at the destruction of the natural associated with the plane, and so at spatial relationship.

Architecture constructs organic corporeality in closed relationships.

The architectural plane is the delimitation of light and space.

In modern painting, color is the plastic expression of light; primary color is the direct plastic expression of light.  Color is the visual sculpture of light.  In modern painting direct relationship is the plastic expression of the multiplicity of spatial relationships.  The plastic representation of light and space is color and relationship.  Where architecture is limitation of space, color and the plastic expression of spatial relationship make complete the cosmic nature of architecture.

Architecture is, like the earth, sculptural, and requires, to complete its plastic expression, the plasticism of light and spatiality.

Now this is the positive result of the destructive element is modern painting — that it carries forward the depiction of visual reality, with its tragedy, into the cosmic values of space, light and relationship, into which [95] therefore, all earthly relief or “the particular case’ is assimilated and its existence presupposed.

[From De Stijl, Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 6-7]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 17, 2010.

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