Theo van Doesburg
In 1917 Theo van Doesburg founded De Stijl (published 1917–32), a monthly periodical whose contributors, Piet Mondrian, Jan Wils, Bart van der Leck, and Georges Vantongerloo, became the leaders of the De Stijl movement. Working closely together, the group stressed the need for abstraction and simplification. Subject matter was excluded from their works; composition was constructed on the principle of the straight line, rectangle, or cube; and the palette was reduced to the primary colors, black, gray, and white. They extended these principles to all the arts—architecture, graphic and industrial design, painting, and sculpture.
Composition XI, which van Doesburg painted in early 1918, features a series of rectangular planes floating on the surface of the canvas. Color is limited to subdued reds, yellows, and blues on an off-white ground, a subtle variation of primary colors on white. The artist arranged the colors and shapes so as to achieve balance, through an intuitive rather than systematic method.