De Stijl, or neoplasticism was an artistic movement founded by Theo van Doesburg in the Netherlands in 1917. You might know the group’s typical clean lines, geometric forms, and limited color palate from the work of Piet Mondrian (or from the White Stripes album of the same name). De Stijl was almost exclusively a Dutch phenomenon and had proponents working within the disiplines of painting, furniture design, architecture, and sculpture and their basic theory was to ignore any and all particular individuality of a piece, instead creating using only the most fundamental visual element; straight horizontal or vertical lines, geometric shapes, and either primary colors or black and white.
The lithographs you see above were created by Bart van der Leck, a founding member of the De Stijl group, but by the time the group created a manifesto and put out their first journal he had parted ways with them. Mr. van der Leck’s experience as a house painter, lithographer, and stained-glass window designer made for an understandable transition out of stylized two-dimensional, heavily representational work into the minimal abstractions of his De Stijl and beyond work. Given the detail of his earlier non-painting work, it is simple to see why Mr. van der Leck was able to capture the essence of creatures and people so simply using only lines and color. As much as I love the work of Piet Mondrian I believe that Bart van der Leck expresses the goals of the De Stijl movement a bit better than he (or even Theo van Doesburg) did by showing that it was possible to abstract that which really exists in the world into the constituent elements of art and design while still holding them together as one universally recognizable thing. Instead realistic-enough flat shapes on paper, Mr. van der Leck turned to paint and canvas, carefully chose colors and shapes, and made some simple – yet magical – paintings. I hope that when you look at the pieces below you are as amazed at the artist’s ability to do this.