The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Early Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism made a major impact on other twentieth-century movements such as Bauhaus, and De Stijl. Like Supermatism, Constructivism was highly influenced by both Cubism and Futurism, and emphasized abstraction and the purity of geometric forms. The movement was founded by Russian painter and architect, Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953), who created sculptural “constructions.” (Interestingly, Tatlin did not consider himself a Constructivist but rather a “Productivist,” though his work is considered to be at the heart of the movement.) Tatlin made his sculptural assemblages out of industrial materials such as wood, plaster, glass, and metal. He also believed that art served an important social purpose, and the Constructivist movement is tied to the radical political changes that occurred in Russia during the October Revolution in 1917. Constructivist artists believed that art could play an important role in the creation of a new, utopian society. One of the key elements of Constructivism, is the idea that a work of art, whether a painting or a sculpture, is created by assembling so-called “autonomous” elements. For example, a sculpture is made up of individual elements such as a line and a plane. This new concept conceived of sculpture as an additive, rather than reductive process (materials are compiled, rather than carved away) and this had a major impact on painting, architecture, and design in the twentieth century.


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