Theo van Doesburg
About 1924 Theo van Doesburg rebelled against Piet Mondrian’s programmatic insistence on the restriction of line to vertical and horizontal orientations, and produced his first Counter-Composition. The direction consequently taken by Neo-Plasticism was designated “Elementarism” by van Doesburg, who described its method of construction as “based on the neutralization of positive and negative directions by the diagonal and, as far as color is concerned, by the dissonant. Equilibrated relations are not an ultimate result.”¹ Mondrian considered this redefinition of Neo-Plasticism heretical; he was soon to resign from the De Stijl group.
This canvas upholds the Neo-Plastic dictum of “peripheric” composition. The focus is decentralized and there are no empty, inactive areas. The geometric planes are emphasized equally, related by contrasts of color, scale, and direction. One’s eyes follow the trajectories of isosceles triangles and stray beyond the canvas to complete mentally the larger triangles sliced off by its edges. The placement of the vertical axis to the left of center and the barely off-square proportions of the support create a sense of shifting balance.