Theo van Doesburg - Study for Composition XIII

The “De Stijl” movement formed in the Dutch city of Leiden in 1917. Van Doesburg was arguably instrumental in founding the new artistic movement and furnishing it with theoretical foundations, although Piet Mondrian with his quest for abstract expression is considered its main source of creative inspiration. The colorful Study for Composition XIII, titled and dated on the mat, speaks to the artist group’s central concerns. The gouache does not depict an object but instead features vertical and horizontal black bars placed on the surface in a loosely organized asymmetrical arrangement. The white, gray, and black rectangles marked out by this structure strike the eye as the picture’s basic design elements, coalescing in rhythmical sequences. Van Doesburg at the time derived his abstractions from figurative representations, in a process he labeled “Durchbildung,” or “thorough formation.” In 1917, he portrayed his second wife, Helena Milius, in a small gouache. Titled Lena in the Interior, it shows her seated in his studio. This gouache was the point of departure for the work in the Im Obersteg Collection, which in turn led to the purely abstract final version Composition XIII, now at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, in which the palette is reduced to the black-white dyad. The program espoused by the “De Stijl” artists called for an abstraction that would reveal the essential and universal in the outward appearance of things.

Aufsatz Vera Heuberger, PDF, 134 KB


Kurt Schwitters vom Künstler
1948 Ernst Schwitters
1967-1978 Marlborough Galerie, Zürich
1978 erworben bei der Galerie Gmurzynska, Köln, von Jürg Im Obersteg


Baumgartner/von Tavel 1995
Michael Baumgartner und Hans Christoph von Tavel: Die Sammlung Karl und Jürg Im Obersteg, hrsg. von der Stiftung «Sammlung Karl und Jürg Im Obersteg», Bern, Bern: Benteli Verlag, 1995, S. 181-182, Nr. 114, Abb.

Hoek 2000
Theo van Doesburg. Oeuvre catalogue, hrsg. von Els Hoek, Otterlo: Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Stichting Kröller-Müller Museum, 2000, S. 227, Nr. 581, Abb. (Lena in Room, um 1918)


Zürich 1972
A Selection of European and American watercolors and drawings, Marlborough Fine Art, Zürich, April-Juni 1992, 1972, S. 7, Nr. 17, Abb.

London 1974
XX Century Drawings and Watercolors, Marlborough Fine Art, London, Uxbridge (Middlesex): The Hillingdon Press, 1974, Nr. 51, Abb. S. 49

Köln 1977
Zu Gast bei Käthe Steinitz, Galerie Gmurzynska, Köln, 23. Nov.-Dez. 1977, Abb.

Wien 2003
Im Banne der Moderne: Picasso, Chagall, Jawlensky, BA-CA Kunstforum, Wien, 4. Sept.-30. Nov. 2003, Nr. 18

Basel 2004
Die Sammlung Im Obersteg im Kunstmuseum Basel. Picasso, Chagall, Jawlensky, Soutine, Kunstmuseum Basel, 14. Febr.-2. Mai 2004, hrsg. von der Stiftung Im Obersteg, Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2004, Nr. 69