The Morality of an Artist’s House

The Morality of an Artist’s House

(image: Theo van Doesburg portrayed in the main access of his house in Meudon. 1930. La Haye, RBK)

text included in Quaderni del Museo Vincenzo Vela. Casa d’artisti, n.5

THE MORALITY OF AN ARTIST’S HOUSE: A LABORATORY FOR MODERN DWELLING. From 1923 «Maison d’Artiste» to van Doesburg’s «Maison-Atelier»
In June 1929, Theo van Doesburg, almost 46, finished the plans to build his own maison-atelier in the outskirts of Paris. Facing for the first time a real project to be built, his former theories of 1923 maison d’artiste for the De Stijl exhibition in Paris (Galerie Rosenberg) changed into a more concerning and possible architecture. In May 1930, while his house was being built, he visited Spain and lectured in Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid. The lecture gives some clues of this change. But as in the very beginnings of his career, he will go on in his own aspiration of breaking the limits between art and life. The maison-atelier is the test ground. For him, as in 1923, architecture had an important role to contribute to life and society not only in an esthetical but in a moral and ethical way. «We are painters that think and measure» he said, as a way to reach a different and new culture. But also: «functions of life can not be projected in two dimensions on the drawing-board. Our step, our way of sitting, eating, drinking, sleeping, working, etc., are arguments of a certain order, a rhythm in time. This order, defines the arrangement of things in space.»

In Vers le Peinture Blanche, he identified white color as «perfection, purity and certainty». So does his own maison-atelier. Some years before, Le Corbusier had talked about the ripolin blanc or the lait de chaux (L’art decoratif d’aujourd’hui, 1925) as a moral argument toward the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs’ interiors excesses. In both cases, they will be thinking in artist’s houses to exemplify their theories. The former in his own house, the latter in Ozenfant’s maison-atelier.

A more detailed study on van Doesburg’s house in Meudon-val-Fleury shows it as a laboratory for modern dwelling in which the manipulation of space deals with a peculiar understanding of the modern atmosphere to live in. The last issue of the De Stijl magazine included a van Doesburg postume article, we can read:

«The qualities of our “environment” depend on the qualities of our work. The artist-atelier will be as a glass box or an empty glass. The painter must be white, to say, without drama and without dirty; his palette must be of glass, the brush square and hard, without dust, pure as a medical instrument…».


Título: Tra universo privato e spazio pubblico: case di artisti adibite a museo. Atti del convegno / Zwischen privatem Kosmos und öffentlichten Raum: Künstlerhaus-Museen. Tagungsband, Quaderni del Museo Vincenzo Vela. Casa d’artisti, n.5
Edita: Gianna A. Mina, Sylvie Wuhrmann (a cura di), Ufficio federale della cultura, Berna, 2011
Autor: Jorge Tárrago (The Morality of an Artist’s House: a Laboratory for Modern Dwelling. From 1923 «Maison d’Artiste» to van Doesburg’s «Maison-Atelier», pp.41-58)
ISBN: 978-3-9523580-8-5
Páginas: 366