Jozef Peeters, Poster lecture by Theo van Doesburg: Klassiek, Barok, Modern, House of Literature, Antwerp.

Up until the exhibition in the Dutch Bookstore in Antwerp (December 1919), the Kring Moderne Kunst had a rather sleepy existence. Yet, the young organisers had already turned to the avant-garde revolution. Jozef Peeters made international contacts in this period and first made advances to the group De Stijl from the Netherlands. The Stijl’s ‘Monthly paper for the modern visual affairs’ (1917 - 1931) is a ground-breaking publication under the editorship of Theo Van Doesburg (1883 - 1931), which supports a new art by which artistic activities and societal context go together. Van Doesburg, who promotes De Stijl intensively abroad (in Germany, Italy and France, inter alia) in 1920 and 1921, gives various lectures in Belgium. They are highly relevant for the rise of the geometrical abstract in Antwerp and Brussels. The lecture Klassiek, barok, Modern (Classical, Baroque, Modern) takes place in Antwerp on 13 February 1920 in the Lutgardiszaal (Sanderusstraat 53, Antwerp). Exactly one month later, on 13 March, Van Doesburg gives a lecture on De Stijl in the Centre d’Art (Caudenberg 6) in Brussels, under the initiative of a young group centred around the brothers Pierre and Victor Bourgeois. In addition to the brothers Bourgeois, Georges Vantongerloo and René Magritte, there are also some of the later 7 Arts colleagues present: Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Felix De Boeck and Victor Servranckx. The term ‘Zuivere Beelding’ (Plastique Pure or Pure Plasticism) would be used for the first time by Van Doesburg here.

Van Doesburg holds a second series of lectures in 1921, again in Brussels as well as Antwerp. The Flemish Study Circle schedules the lecture Tot Stijl in the Hôtel Ravenstein on 30 November 1921. Theo Van Doesburg redoes the lecture on 2 December 1921 in the Royal Atheneum in Antwerp. An announcement for the lecture in De Morgenpost (the Antwerp edition of De Standaard newspaper) provides a good image of how the broader public comes in contact with the standpoints of the avant-garde. ‘Theo Van Doesburg, the well-known leader of the paper ‘Stijl’ and propagandist for modern art, gives a lecture with images entitled ‘Tot Stijl’ on Friday evening at 8pm in the ballroom of the Royal Atheneum. […] It is known that Van Doesburg and his supporters stand for an utmost simplification in art. They no longer abide in an imitation of nature, but want to provide an artistic impression with a simple play of square planes. […] This lecture will be clarified by images, so that it offers an opportunity to all who wish to get to know the highly controversial modern tendency in art.’ It is during this lecture that Fernand Berckelaers (alias Michel Seuphor) meets Jozef Peeters and shortly thereafter offers him the co-directorship of his publication Het Overzicht

Theo Van Doesburg’s importance cannot be overestimated for the budding avant-garde in Belgium. Roger Van Avermaete of Lumière, architect Victor Bourgeois as well as Paul Van Ostaijen correspond with him. Eugeen De Bock of the paper Ruimte shall be a propagandist and representative of De Stijl in Belgium for a short period of time. De Bock’s publisher De Sikkel even publishes the lecture Klassiek, barok, Modern. In 1922, Van Doesburg signs the manifesto of the Konstruktivistische Internationale beeldende Arbeidsgemeenschap (International Constructivist Worker’s Society) along with El Lissitsky (1890 - 1941), Hans Richter (1888 - 1976) and the Fleming Karel Maes, among others. With his emphasis on the international nature of Constructivism, Van Doesburg brings various projects into action. Thus, for example, the Antwerp paper Ça Ira evolves under his influence from a leftist Flemish nationalistic orientation to an avant-garde periodical. Van Doesburg will later cross paths with Michel Seuphor while he is in Paris continuing to defend Abstract Art with Cercle et Carré. However, Van Doesburg shall not collaborate with him due to his extreme standpoints on geometric abstraction.


Sergio Servellón


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