Artwork Detail

Compositie VII: ‘de drie Gratiën’ (Composition VII: The Three Graces)
1917
Dutch, 1883–1931
Oil on canvas
33 1/2 x 33 1/2 "
University purchase, Yeatman Fund, 1947
WU 3812
Highlights
Theo van Doesburg was a founding member of De Stijl, a Dutch art movement that promoted utopian ideals and spiritual harmony through the embrace of rational design principles. In this painting van Doesburg presents an orderly arrangement of brightly colored rectangular planes set against a black background. Organized around the measured, rational form of the grid—a vital component of modernist abstraction—the image appears, at least at first, as if entirely liberated from the traditional constraints of figurative representation. However, the painting neither relies on nor celebrates a purely abstract vision. Through the dynamic interplay of form and color this composition suggests an abstracted but recognizable leitmotif whose origins date back to Greek antiquity: a trio of female dancers, the “three graces” of the title. Van Doesburg prized dance as an expressive ideal; by invoking it here he reveals his faith in the creative and spiritual faculties of popular urban culture.