Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)
Beyond Boundaries: Avant-Garde Masterworks from a European Collection
Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)

Kleurontwerp voor schoorsteenstuk

Image size: 28 ½ x 10 ¾ in. (71.3 x 27.5 cm.)
Board size: 29 ¼ x 12 1/8 in. (74.3 x 30.7 cm.)
Nelly van Doesburg, Meudon (by descent from the artist and until at least 1952).
Arnold H. Maremont, Winnetka.
B.C. Holland Gallery, Chicago.
Eugene V. Thaw, New York and Stephen Hahn, New York.
Galerie Tarica, Paris (circa 1973).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, circa 1973.
De Stijl, ed., Quelques indications biographiques sur Theo van Doesburg, peintre et architecte, 1932, no. 9 (illustrated, p. 637; titled Glas-Mozaik and dated 1916).
P. Bromberg, L. Bron, F. Eschauzier, I.H. von Essen, W. Pijper, T. von Reyn, Theo van Doesburg: Prisma der Kunsten, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1936, p. 108 (illustrated).
M. Seuphor, Dictionnaire de la peinture abstraite, Paris, 1957, p. 43 (illustrated in color; titled Composition VI).
H.L.C. Jaffé, Theo van Doesburg, Weert, 1983, p. 62 (illustrated in color with incorrect orientation, p. 100, fig. 42; titled Compositie VI voor glasmozaïek and dated 1917-1918).
A. Doig, Theo van Doesburg: Painting into Architecture, Theory into Practice, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 71-72.
E. van Straaten, Theo van Doesburg: Painter and Architect, exh. cat., Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1988, pp. 38 and 40 (illustrated, p. 39, fig. 21; titled Colour Design for Composition VI for Glass Mosaic (Chimney-Piece)).
A. Doig, "Les transformations géométriques et leur signification dans les premières oeuvres néo plastiques de Van Doesburg" in S. Lemoine, Theo van Doesburg, Paris, 1990, p. 138.
C.-P. Warncke, The Ideal as Art: De Stijl, 1917-1931, Cologne, 1994, pp. 100-101 (illustrated in color; titled Kleurontwerp voor compositie VI voor glasmozaiek and incorrectly catalogued as a study for a glass moasic at Villa Allegonda, Katwijk aan Zee).
E. Hoek, ed., Theo van Doesburg: oeuvre catalogue, Utrecht, 2000, p. 201, no. 554.IVa (illustrated in color).
Weimar, Landesmuseum, Retrospektiv: Theo van Doesburg, December 1923-January 1924, no. 1 (titled Entwurf für Komposition in Mosaik).
(possibly) Hannover, Kestner Gesellschaft, Retrospektiv: Theo Van Doesburg, April 1924.
Paris, Porte de Versailles, Parc des Expositions, "1940": Deuxième exposition: Rétrospective Van Doesburg, January-February 1932, p. 5, no. 28 (titled Dessin and dated 1916).
New York, Art of This Century Gallery, Theo van Doesburg: Retrospective Exhibition, April-May 1947.
(possibly) Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Walt Kuhn, Lyonel Feininger and Theo van Doesburg, June-July 1947.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Theo van Doesburg, July-August 1947.
(possibly) Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, Theo van Doesburg, September 1947.
University of Chicago, The Renaissance Society, Theo van Doesburg: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs and Architectural Drawings, October-November 1947, no. 9 (incorrectly catalogued as used over a fireplace in the Villa Allegonde Katwijk-aan-Zee, Holland).
(possibly) Cincinnati Art Museum, Theo Van Doesburg, November-December 1947.
Cambridge, Harvard University, Robinson Hall, Van Doesburg, January 1948, no. 46.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, De Stijl, July-September 1951.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, De Stijl: 1917-1928, December 1952-April 1953, no. 208.
London, Annely Juda Fine Art and Michael Tollemache, The Non-Objective World: 1914-1924, June-September 1970, no. 42 (illustrated).
New York, Robert Elkon Gallery, Twentieth Century Masters, October-November 1971, no. 4 (illustrated; titled Sixth Composition for Glass Mosaic).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center and Washington, D.C., The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, De Stijl, 1917-1931: Visions of Utopia, January-June 1982, no. 13 (titled Mosaic Composition VI, Katwijk on Sea, dated 1917-1918 and incorrectly catalogued as Color Design for the Villa Allegonda).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, De Stijl: 1917-1931, August-October 1982, no. 13 (titled VIe Kompositie voor glasmozaïek, dated 1917-1918 and incorrectly catalogued as a design for the Villa Allegonda).


In 1917, during the First World War, a group of Dutch artists united in common cause under the name De Stijl. The leading painters were Theo van Doesburg, Georges Vantongerloo, Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, and the Hungarian émigré Vilmos Huszár; the chief architects were Gerrit Rietveld, J. J. Oud, and Jan Wils. Together they “not only redefined the vocabulary and the grammar of the visual arts,” as Hans L. C. Jaffé has written, “they assigned a new task to painting, architecture and the other arts: to serve as a guide for humanity to prepare it for the harmony and balance of the ‘new life,’ to serve mankind by enlightening it” (De Stijl: Visions of Utopia, exh. cat., The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1982, p. 15).
Collaborating with the architect Wils, Van Doesburg during May-October 1917 applied his theories on merging art and design to create a three panel stained-glass window and other features for the home of Jan de Lange in Alkmaar (Hoek, no. 554). The present gouache is the actual-size design for a glass mosaic decoration above the fireplace in De Lange’s study.
The proliferation of variously sized and colored rectangular forms in this composition does not at first glance appear to conform to a rigorous, systematic conception of the De Stijl grid. Closer study, however, reveals 24 stacked component sections, the right-hand column mirroring the left; the artist inverted, reversed, and rejoined two fundamental patterns throughout the work to form an intricate, interlocking design.
Van Doesburg likened this effect to movement in dance, and the sequential techniques in the music of J.S. Bach. “I hope to set up something new again this week intended for a tile tableau,” the artist wrote to Antony Kok on 14 July 1917. “When once I have a motif I keep it too tightly together. In music, especially in Bach, the motif is continually being assimilated in a different way. That is what I want to achieve with a new dance motif” (quoted in E. Hoek, ed., op. cit., 2000, p. 201). The resultant mesmerizing effect suggests a kinetic phenomenon, and apropos of the fireplace setting, as if one were gazing upon flickering, dancing flames.
The fireplace still exists. The glass mosaic, set in plaster, was executed after August 1917, but never installed (Hoek, no. 554 IVb). It is known today only from a photograph in Van Doesburg’s portfolio, which his wife Nelly later mistakenly attributed to another project of 1917-1918, the Villa Allegonda in Katwijk aan Zee; the present composition has been likewise inaccurately annotated in older exhibition catalogues.

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