John Elderfield

  • Geometric Abstract Painting and Paris in the Thirties, Part I

    “IT WON’T DO,” WROTE Theo Van Doesburg in 1925, “it won’t do to use the exterior forms of the new as a recipe, in order to produce decorative or applied arts.”1 But by the early thirties abstraction seemed to have lost its uncompromising character, its equilibrium, and some younger abstract artists were producing what Van Doesburg had mockingly called “quadratic baroque.” Both Van Doesburg and Mondrian had, in fact, recognized that second generation abstractionists ran the risk of borrowing exterior stylistic forms without a full comprehension of their implicit spirit; but the abstract “mannerisms”

  • The Last Work of Kurt Schwitters

    I

    A “HANKERING AFTER THE PRIMITIVE” is how Richard Huelsenbeck has described Schwitters’ work, a wish to get away from “the complicated, overcharged, perspectively seen present.”1 In the last years of his life, spent in the obscurity of the English Lake District, Kurt Schwitters found such an escape from the urban environment which had dominated his German work. His work had always been a kind of running autobiography; that part of it done outside Germany sees a significant attachment to nature which effects the creation of new and different species of objects. Chief of these is the Elterwater