Painting and Music

6 New Departures Typified by Constructivism and De Stijl

Whereas the debate about associations between music and painting and between colors and sounds abounded prior to World War I with irrational, theosophically influenced ideas, Kandinsky, Klee, Johannes Itten, and others in the Bauhaus movement subsequently sought teachable and learnable methods for setting painting in relation to music. The constructivists were also in dialogue with music, even if their works — at least among recipients who relate music to different moods — awaken little in the way of musical associations. El Lissitzky, Ljubov Sergeevna Popova, and Alexander Rodchenko, for example, saw harmony, rhythm, and melody as exact truths because their construction is based on laws that can be identified and verified just the same as in music. The development was similar in De Stijl.[19] If Theo van Doesburg had initially hoped to learn something through his work on the motif from the music of Bach, by 1920 he saw all classical, noncontemporary music as being excessively determined by the subjective will to express.

In addition, both van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian dealt intensively with dance. Mondrian shared his enthusiasm for jazz with Man Ray and Henri Matisse. These artists, while giving titles evoking this musical style to their work, did not necessarily claim structural links to jazz, but only declared their commitment to experimentation, the city, the rupture with convention. Mondrian succeeded in creating a comprehensive synthesis of these themes in Broadway Boogie Woogie (1943).