49.5 x 60 cm
Gouache on paper
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Das Progressive Museum Basel
Schematische Komposition [Schematic composition]
One of the core utopian ideas of modernism was to unite fine arts with applied arts and to have an aesthetic as well as ethical impact on society. While many artists only preached this utopian concept as theory, Sophie Taeuber (born 1889 in Davos, Switzerland, died 1943 in Zurich, Switzerland) actually lived it. Taeuber was a textile designer, craftswoman, interior designer, painter, sculptor, editor, educator, and dancer. She was involved in the Zurich Dada movement and was a pioneer of Constructivist Art. Her multifarious oeuvre united an infallible understanding of color and form with a poetic power of expression that crossed many genres, making her of the most important (female) artists of the 20th century.
Sophie Taeuber studied applied arts in St. Gallen, Munich, and Hamburg before she moved to Zurich in 1914, where she began to earn a living with textile works. In 1916, she became a teacher of textile design at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich. She developed her own Constructivist vocabulary around 1915, although she was unfamiliar with the Russian and Dutch pioneers at the time. In the same year, she also got to know Hans Arp, and they began a life-long relationship and a mutually inspiring artistic collaboration. From then until 1929, Taeuber focused on works on paper in which she applied rhythmic, dynamic color fields or stylized figures in bright color combinations. In 1929, she quit her teaching job in Zurich, and she and Arp moved to a studio she designed in Meudon near Paris, where they remained until they had to flee in 1940. The main body of her work, which she expanded to include painting and reliefs, was created in this studio and was inspired by her interaction with abstract and concrete artists in Paris. Sophie Taeuber’s works depict horizontal and vertical structures, combinations of rectangles and circles, and constellations of squares and circles, and lines – all of which she approached from periodically changing perspectives, demonstrating her ongoing exploration of the interaction between the dynamic aspects of color/form and the spiritual/sensual.
“Schematische Komposition” from 1930 belongs to a small group of works that includes gouaches, paintings, and reliefs depicting circular and rectangular forms on a black background. The schematic structure suggested in the title does not completely dictate the composition, however. Except for the predetermined format of the circular and rectangular forms, it is not possible to discern a regular grid pattern in the cluster of forms that is dense in some parts and more spread out in others. The black pictorial support lends the forms a kind of dramatic presence that contrasts starkly with the background.
Another of Sophie Taeuber’s projects, the “Bar Aubette,” has been reconstructed in an homage to her contribution to one of modernism’s most important “Gesamtkunstwerk." The so-called “Aubette” was originally an entertainment venue established by André and Paul Horn located in Strasbourg in the Palais Kléber, which is protected as a historic monument. In 1926, Sophie Taeuber was commissioned to create an interior design for the “Aubette,” which she completed in 1927 and 1928 as the site manager, in close collaboration with Hans Arp and Theo van Doesburg. The avant-garde interior, which was remodeled soon after its opening, was for the most part destroyed under German occupation. Of the altogether dozen or so rooms, several have been restored or reconstructed and are now open to the public. The “Bar Aubette” on the ground floor was also destroyed. All that remains of the room that was a kind of “shrine to color” measuring only about 5 x 3.4 meters in size is a reconstruction based on Sophie Taeuber’s drafts and a few black and white pictures. Taeuber’s design is a unified, vertical-horizontal composition that covers the entire walls and ceiling. Monochrome color fields alternate with fields divided into smaller squares, while warm colors alternate with cool colors, light hues with dark hues, and colorful areas with white, gray, and black areas. Even as a reconstruction, the “Bar Aubette,” with its cheerful play of colors and forms, ranks among Sophie Taeuber’s most atmospherically coherent interior designs.