RKD podcast: Theo van Doesburg


The latest episode in the podcast series produced by the RKD in collaboration with Caspar Stalenhoef takes a look at Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) and has appeared (in Dutch) on Spotify and Apple Podcasts among other podcast apps. Sjoerd van Faassen, associate researcher at the RKD, talks about Van Doesburg’s tireless efforts to spread his ideas among an international audience.

Audio URL

Artist and author

Besides being a visual artist, Theo van Doesburg was also a critic, magazine editor, architect, poet and writer. He seems perpetually to have been searching for something new, his head bursting with ideas. He was constantly trying to give his own life direction, as well as guiding others. Van Doesburg excelled at capturing in words the spirit of his time. Van Faassen tells us that ‘he could not stop writing’, including novels and literature. He earliest writings date from the 1910s. Around 1920 he was introduced to the work of the Dadaists and this even inspired him to write constructivist poems. But besides his achievements as a painter and architect, he is of course principally known through De Stijl and his theoretical writings.

International network

As editor of De Stijl, the magazine he founded with Piet Mondrian and other like-minded artists in 1917, he came into contact with everyone that mattered in modernist Europe. His aim was to forge international connections through the group assembled around De Stijl. Van Doesburg was not a man possessed with great diplomatic skills, and he frequently found himself clashing with fellow architects and artists including J.J.P. Oud, Bart van der Leck and Vilmos Huszár. He never gained so much as a foothold in the Bauhaus.

1. Theo van Doesburg werkend aan de maquette van Maison Particulière in zijn atelier in de rue Moulin Vert, Parijs, voorjaar/zomer 1923
2. Theo van Doesburg, Maison d’artiste, 1923, collectie Het Nieuwe Instituut
3. Omslag van de biografie Ik sta helemaal alleen. Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931

I am all alone

The biography Ik sta helemaal alleen. Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931 (I am all alone. Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931) will be published by de Bezige Bij on 28 September. One of its authors is Sjoerd van Faassen. Together with Hans Renders, Sjoerd spent many years researching the single-minded artist, resulting in a book that is nearly 800 pages long. Theo van Doesburg seems to have been indefatigable in trying to disseminate his ideas. He avoids becoming resentful and continues to believe in himself, despite the resistance and disappointments he meets in pursuit of his goals. The podcast reveals that when talking about himself he was often liberal with the truth. But even without distorting the facts, the life of Theo van Doesburg makes for a fascinating story.