Theo van Doesburg Composition VII (the three graces), 1917

Neoplasticism, known in Dutch as Nieuwe Beelding or the new image, is an avant-garde art theory that arose in 1917 and was employed mainly by Dutch De Stijl artists. The most notable advocates of the theory were the painters Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondriaan.[1] Neoplasticism advocated for an abstract art that had been purified by applying the most elementary principles through plainly rational means. Thus, a painting that adhered to neoplastic theory would typically consist of only simple shapes and primary colors.[citation needed]


The term "plastic arts" has been used historically to denote visual art forms (painting, sculpture, and ceramics) as opposed to literature or music. The terms plasticity and plasticism became more widely used in the early 20th century by critics discussing modern painting, particularly the works of Paul Cézanne.[2]


Nicolas Poussin. Et in arcadia Ego. Ca. 1638–1640. Louvre.

According to the neoplasticists, the painter, sculptor, architect, musician, writer, etc., are concerned with expressing or depicting all facets of life. However, this never happens by chance. Every painting, sculpture, building, piece of music, book, etc., is deliberately created. It is the maker's product and, to a lesser extent, what it represents. The events in this painting by Nicolas Poussin never took place. Even the body postures of the figures are not so common in real life. Yet it convinces and forms a harmonious whole. So every artist manipulates reality to produce an aesthetically pleasing, artfully pleasing whole: to create harmony. Even the most realistic painters, such as Johannes Vermeer or Rembrandt van Rijn, used all kinds of artistic means to achieve the greatest possible degree of harmony. The artists of De Stijl called these visual means. However, the artist determines to what extent he allows these visual means to dominate or to stay as close as possible to his subject. In painting and sculpture, and to a lesser extent in architecture, music, and literature, there is a duality between the idea of the artist and the matter of the world around us.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Starasta, Leslie (July 2004). "The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (3rd edition)". Reference Reviews. 18 (5): 16–17. doi:10.1108/09504120410542931. ISSN 0950-4125. (book review)
  2. ^ Jill Anderson Kyle (2009), Cezanne and American Modernism, edited by Staviydky, Rothkoff, Yale University Press; First Edition, p. 67 ISBN 9780300147155