Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 and Composition XX in the Painting toward architecture exhibitions (1947-52)

The influential Space-time... in the original PtA is also a key element in a travelling exhibition focused on architect Harry Seidler. Next scheduled venue: Chicago, August-September 2018.

Theo van Doesburg space-time construction #3
Harry Seidler: Painting toward Architecture, Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York (September - November 2017). From left to right: Abby Suckle (New York-based architect; former student of Seidler at Harvard in 1976); speaking is architectural historian Kenneth Frampton (author of Harry Seidler: Four Decades of Architecture with Philip Drew); curator Vladimir Belogolovsky; Jeremy Edmiston (Sydney-born, NY-based architect, who worked for Seidler for eight years in Sydney). Standing next to the model is Harry’s daughter, Polly Seidler. Photo: Lena Di. Courtesy Intercontinental Curatorial Project.

Last fall, a reproduction of Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 (top right, between the lights) was exhibited at City College of New York, the 27th venue of the travelling exhibition Harry Seidler: Painting toward architecture, focused on the work of the architect based in Australia. To the left of the artwork is a portrait of Seidler (1923-2006). The exhibition and Seidler’s work partly pay tribute to the significant influence that Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 had on the architect. Also of strong influence to Seidler was the seminal book Painting toward architecture (1948) by Henry-Russell Hitchcock, which is also featured in the exhibition.

Hitchcock’s PtA book accompanied the often nowadays little-known original Painting toward architecture exhibition. Like the current Harry Seidler exhibition, the PtA exhibition (1947-52) also had many venues, at least 28. Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 was also a key work in the earlier show.

This c. 1950 travelling exhibition was organized by legendary art collectors Burton and Emily Hall Tremaine, their first art-design initiative together. The travelling show was organized by the Miller Company in Meriden, Connecticut; Burton was the CEO and his wife, Emily Hall Tremaine, was the art director and later the company’s design director.

The couple’s overall initiative focused dynamically on crossovers and marshaling creative work together in the fields of art, graphic design, product design, interior design, architecture— and communications, sales and marketing— mainly within the company, which manufactured commercial lighting. The show was a Post-WWII take on earlier Modernist cross-over work and advocated adopting similar principles at the time.


Painting toward architecture in August 2018, and back in 1947-52

Serge Chermayeff Painting toward Architecture University of North Carolina Chapel Hill NC
Recently unearthed archival photo of Serge Chermayeff (second from the left) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill viewing of Painting toward architecture. See in compilation below: (27 January 1951). View painting, sculpture exhibit at UNC: ’Painting toward architecture’ now on exhibit at UNC. News and Observer, (Raleigh, NC), p. 7.


This summer in late August, Harry Seidler: Painting toward architecture conceptually seems to have a bit of a homecoming with the exhibition’s appearance at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Crown Hall. Along with Hitchcock, Serge Chermayeff, former President of the Institute of Design, partly a predecessor of today’s IIT, was actively involved in the Miller Company’s Painting toward architecture post-WWII project. He wrote a key article offering his take on "Painting toward architecture", and he contributed graphic design and interior design concepts to the Miller Company cross-disciplinary initiative. He also gave lectures at the exhibition’s Milwaukee and North Carolina venues— and a special venue in West Virginia, a regional AIA conference in early November 1949 with nationwide attendance.

In developing research, the Painting toward architecture exhibition at the AIA conference seems the most amusing. Allan Neal reported in the Pittsburgh-based Charette, a journal on architecture and building, "Serge Chermayeff really baffled us at another lecture, ’Painting Toward Architecture.’ To go with the erudite talk there was hung on the surrounding walls a painting exhibit which was even more baffling. I didn’t understand much of either but it made us feel very cultured and superior."

Later that evening, AIA President Ralph Walker gave a rambling speech blasting Modernism and the Painting toward architecture exhibition, with the work presumably all around him. He said point blank: "If I may be forgiven, Painting toward architecture makes me think of a ‘bull in someone else’s china shop’”.

The criticism from both camps apparently continued for months. Ralph Walker’s speech was published in two parts in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in February and March 1950. The following month, The Charette released a parody "Architecture... toward painting" with sketches, while a letter to the editor by Orin Raphael in the same issue pushed back against the criticism.

Harry Seidler also thinks differently

Theo van Doesburg space time construction #3
Theo van Doesburg. Space-time
construction #3
, (1923). Drawing in
graphite and black ink, with black, white,
grey, red, blue and yellow gouache.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

While Walker was unimpressed, the idea of "Painting toward architecture" greatly impressed Harry Seidler. In October 1949, he published arguably his own take on the topic in Architecture: Journal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Originally from Vienna and before Seidler went to Sydney, he spent some of his time in between in New York in September 1946 to March 1948. He worked a bit for Marcel Breuer, studied at Harvard earlier, and later worked briefly for Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil. While in New York, it is thought that he personally saw Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 and visited the work often. Since that time, the work was very influential to the younger Seidler, hence its inclusion in Harry Seidler: Painting toward architecture.

Four decades later, in 1991, Burton Tremaine sold Space-time construction #3 at a Christie’s auction in New York. In the following year, Seidler bought Space-time construction #3 from a Berlin-based art dealer and brought it to his home in Killara, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. (See the photo towards the bottom of this webpage.) The work was later donated to the National Gallery of Art in Canberra in 2010.


Space-time construction #3 and Composition XX in Painting toward architecture (1947-52)


Theo van Doesburg composition xx
Theo van Doesburg. Composition XX, (1920). Oil on canvas. 92 x 71 cm. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.


As the representation of Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 continues its multi-year march internationally via Harry Seidler: Painting toward architecture, it seemed an optimal time in my developing research to present a >> focus on Space-time construction #3 and primary source documentation << about the work, across Painting toward architecture (1947-52), and other Miller Company exhibitions during and around this time period. A lot of this primary source material has been newly unearthed and has revealed a far fuller range of Miller Co. shows and lending to various other exhibitions. Waves of mass digitization and other light technology have arguably enabled researchers like myself, as well as librarians and archivists, to more quickly identify dispersed, relevant documentation, and to send and communicate it more easily.

Having said this, the PtA documentation highlighted below still presents a limited picture, at least by contemporary art / design communications standards. I’d estimate the current state of found documentation to be at a solid phase I, with hopefully a fuller picture becoming visible in the not-too-distant future.

Developing compilation

Below is a specific, detailed bibliography mainly focused on primary source documentation concerning Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 in the 1947-52 Painting toward architecture exhibitions, as well as other Miller Company shows. (The overall PtA documentation list is linked at bottom in the navigation bar.) I’ve also added Composition XX by Van Doesburg, which I understand to have been brought into Painting toward architecture starting with perhaps the 15th venue at the Rhode Island School of Design, or earlier. This work is also understood to have been exhibited to some degree in other Miller Company shows. During the overall 1947-52 time period, the works are also understood to have been lent to other exhibitions, reflecting a kind of dynamism of the PtA initiatives by Emily Hall Tremaine. The many, varied, newly identified sources aim to enrich the history and discussion on Painting toward architecture and provide more background to Harry Seidler: Painting toward architecture.

The compilation also aims to provide more concrete documentation about the important role and influence of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 from 1923 to the present day. [FN1]

Venue 1: Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, (11 December 1947 - 3 January 1948).

(c. December 1947). Installation photo of Painting toward architecture at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (showing Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3), p. 92. (Photo not received from Wadsworth Atheneum archive.) In Kathleen L. Housley’s Emily Hall Tremaine: Collector on the Cusp. (2001). (See worldcat.) (AAA03337).

(c. December 1947). Various documentation. Including: two (presumed) object lists: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 listed on both (AAA00337-38); installation photo (showing Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3), (Wadsworth Atheneum archive, Hartford, CT.) (AAA00442).

Louchheim, Aline B. (December 1947). Abstraction on the assembly line. ARTnews. [Photo of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 and mention in the text.] (Wadsworth Atheneum archive.) (AAA00072.)

(1 December 1947). Painting toward architecture. News Bulletin (Wadsworth Atheneum), p. 2. [Mention of “VanDoesburg” [sic] among other artists.] (See worldcat). (AAA00368.)

Murray, Marian. (c. 13 December 1947). Abstract art at Avery casts light on new architecture. The Hartford Times. [The artwork is mentioned.] (Wadsworth Atheneum or Hartford Public Library). (AAA00111.)

(14 December 1947). New ties are shown between art and industry; Lighting firm’s exhibition also traces modern impact on architecture. New York Herald Tribune. [Mentions Van Doesburg in a sentence.] (Reprint - Wadsworth Atheneum archive, Hartford, CT; see worldcat). (AAA00074.)

Louchheim, Aline B. (21 December 1947). Using the abstract; Hartford show reveals how industrial firm puts a collection to work. New York Times. [“The alliance is most easily seen in the examples by the Dutch painters Mondrian and Van Doesburg…” (commentary extends for a full paragraph).] (Reprint - Wadsworth Atheneum archive, Hartford, CT; see worldcat). (AAA00073.)

Smith, Wayne C. (28 December 1947). Abstract art on view at Hartford Atheneum. The Republican (Springfield, MA). [“Theo van Doesburg” listed among other artists.] (Best available copy.) (Springfield City Library). (AAA00154.)


Venue 2: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, (20 January - 22 February 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known exhibition checklist and packing lists have survived. The photos, which focus on people presumably after a talk by Hitchcock, do not show Space-time construction #3.

> (14 January 1948). Press release and press release template. [While Van Doesburg isn’t specifically mentioned, the template is an important source for the PtA exhibitions.] (Walker Art Center archive, Minneapolis, MN.) (AAA00117).

Lansford, Alonzo M. (1 February 1948). Miller Collection presents art as step-mother of architecture. The art digest. [In reprint, includes photo of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3. Also, “A composition by Van Doesburg, who had such a profound effect on the architects of the Bauhaus… illustrates the concept of free-moving space controlled by free-standing planes”.] (Reprint - Wadsworth Atheneum archive, Hartford, CT; or see worldcat). (AAA00075.)

(February 1948). Art for architecture’s sake. [Photos include Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3; there seems no mention of Van Doesburg specifically in the text.] Interiors, pp. 76-81. (See worldcat.) (AAA03308; AAA03308b.)


Venue 3: Akron Art Institute (now the Akron Art Museum), Akron, OH, (9 - 28 March 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists are known to have survived.

> (March 1948). Invitation. ["Paintings by... Van Doesburg", not specified.](Akron Art Museum archive). (AAA00054-55).

The limited media coverage does not mention Van Doesburg.


Venue 4: Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, (4 - 28 April 1948).


> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos or packing lists have survived.

> Object list (presumably). [Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is on this list.] (Baltimore Museum of Art archive). (AAA00046).

> (3 April 1948). Press release. (Baltimore Museum of Art archive). (AAA00030).

"... A composition by van Doesburg, who has such a profound effect on the architects of the Bauhaus, Gropius, Oud, and Mies van der Rohe, illustrates that close point of contact in 1923 when a painted picture seemed to be a three-dimensional rendering of the architects two-dimensional plan of free moving space controlled by free-standing planes."


(c. April 1948). Transcript of speech introducing Henry-Russell Hitchcock by Adelyn D. Breeskin, Director, Baltimore Museum of Art. [Does not mention Van Doesburg, but how Breeskin frames the exhibition may be interesting.] (Baltimore Museum of Art archive). (AAA00047).

(April 1948). "Painting toward Architecture". Baltimore Museum of Art News, p. 7. (Baltimore Museum of Art archive, or see worldcat.) (AAA00027.)

"... A composition by van Doesburg, who has such a profound effect on the architects of the Bauhaus, Gropius, Oud, and Mies van der Rohe, illustrates that close point of contact in 1923 when a painted picture seemed to be a three-dimensional rendering of the architects two-dimensional plan of free moving space controlled by free-standing planes." (Yes, this is repeated.)


Wharton, Carol. (4 April 1948). Exhibit notes [with three paragraphs on Painting toward architecture]. [Van Doesburg listed among other artists.] The Sun (Baltimore), p. A4. (Baltimore County Public Library, MD, or see worldcat.) (AAA0139.)


Venue 5: Milwaukee Art Institute (now the Milwaukee Art Museum), Milwaukee, WI, (7 May - 6 June 1948).


> As of 8 June 2018, no installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists at the Milwaukee Institute / Art Museum are known to have survived.

> (before 9 June 1948). Packing list (sent by Miller Co. to the California Palace Legion of Honor; what to expect from Milwaukee Institute and what to send to the Los Angeles Museum on 2 August 1948: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

> (15 June 1948). Items received by the California Legion of Honor via Milwaukee Institute; document sent to the Miller Company: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

Chermayeff, Serge. (June 1948). "Painting toward architecture". Arts and architecture, pp. 24-31. [A photo of Space-time construction #3 accompanies the article. This article is more overall thematic than specific to the works on view in Milwaukee.] (See worldcat). (AAA00109.)

"The basic affinity of the rectilinear universe recognizable in the work of Mondrian, van Doesburg, van der Rohe, Gropius and the early Breuer is followed by the simultaneous development of a new world of form expressed through the work of Arp, Miro, Aalto, Corbusier and Tekton."


Venue 6: California Palace Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, (1 July - 1 August 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known exhibition checklist has survived.

> Please note that Space-time construction #3 does not seem to be in the four installation photo shots that I received from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.

> (before 9 June 1948). Packing list (sent by Miller Co.; what to expect from Milwaukee Institute, and what to send to the Los Angeles Museum on 2 August 1948: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

> (15 June 1948). Items received via Milwaukee Institute; document sent to the Miller Company: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

(June 1948). Painting toward architecture. Architect and engineer (San Francisco), pp. 10-13. ["Van Doesburg" mentioned in relation to architecture by Oud.] (Online here.) (AAA00065.)

Frankenstein, Alfred. (25 July 1948). The new exhibits at the local galleries. San Francisco Chronicle, pp. 20-1. ["Theo van Doesburg" is just mentioned by name among other artists.] (San Francisco Public Library.) (AAA00061-62.)


Venue 7: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (7 August - 6 September 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist or packing lists have survived at LACMA.

> (before 9 June 1948). Packing list (sent by Miller Co.; what to expect from Milwaukee Institute, and what to send to the Los Angeles Museum on 2 August 1948: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

> (15 June 1948). For general reference as related to previous venue: Items received via Milwaukee Institute; document sent to the Miller Company: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is listed. [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young/Legion of Honor) archive.] (AAA00299.)

None of the limited media coverage mentions Van Doesburg.


Venue 8: Portland Art Museum, OR, (13 September - 3 October 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos have survived at the Portland Art Museum.

> (1948). Object list. [This is a prepared checklist by the Miller Co. The assumption here is that it reflects what was actually exhibited in Portland.] Listed: "Van Doesburg, Theo - Space-Time Construction #3". (Portland Art Museum exhibition archive.) (AAA00147).

> (1948). Object "list sent by Portland, Oregon": "Van Doesburg - Space-Time-Construction #3". (Cincinnati Art Museum archives, University of Cincinnati, Archives & Rare Book Library). (AA00775.)

(September 1948). Announcement: Painting toward Architecture. ["Van Doesburg" is listed among other artists.] Portland Museum of Art Bulletin, 10(1). (Portland Art Museum archive.) (AAA00084.).

(12 September 1948). Art museum to present architecture. Journal (Portland, OR). ["Van Doesburg" is listed among other artists.] (Portland Art Museum archive). (AAA00085a.)

Jones, Catherine. (12 September 1948). Eastern company sponsors exhibit at art museum. The Sunday Oregonian. [Mention of Van Doesburg in a sentence.] (See worldcat). (AAA00071.)


Venue 9: Cincinnati Art Museum, organized by the Cincinnati Modern Art Society, Cincinnati, OH, (11-31 October 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos have survived.

> (1947-48). Various documentation: "Official checklist": “8 Van Doesburg, Theo ‘Space-Time Construction #3’”, "checklist": “Van Doesburg, Theo – Space-Time Construction #3”; "additions to come": “van Doesburg, Theo – Space-Time Construction #3”; "list sent by Portland, Oregon": “40 Van Doesburg – Space-Time-Construction #3”, "condition of works", shipping receipts. (Cincinnati Art Museum Archives, University of Cincinnati, Archives & Rare Book Library.) (AAA00775-80.)

Cincinnati: The Society (1948). Invitation with objects list. [1 folded sheet]: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction no. 3. (Cincinnati Art Museum Archives, University of Cincinnati, Archives & Rare Book Library; and Museum of Modern Art, New York, library catalogue: call no. GEC 1948 0056.) (AAA00028-29).

The one article found for the Cincinnati venue focuses on a lecture by Hitchcock and does not mention Van Doesburg.


Venue 10: Knoedler Art Galleries, New York (for the benefit of the Scholarship Fund of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, (2 - 20 November 1948).

> As of 8 June 2018, no installation photos or packing lists are known to have survived.

(November 1948). Brochure with object list - Painting toward architecture for the Benefit of the Scholarship Fund of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University: Theo van Doesburg’s “Space-Time Construction #3” is listed. (M. Knoedler & Co. records, approximately 1848-1971; Series VIII. Exhibition files, 1869-1971. Box 3746: 1948 November 2-20. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; and Yale University Art Gallery archive.) (AAA00068.)

Louchhiem, Aline B. (2 November 1948). Value of lighting art show feature. New York Times, p. 31. (See worldcat). (AAA00069).

“The painting by Theo van Doesburg, which looks like a worm’s eye view of a modern house, reflects how architects have adjusted masses and volumes in the irregular plans of their new unboxlike houses.”


Coates, Robert M. (13 November 1948). The art galleries; various ventures in Modern art [half of the article focused on Painting toward architecture]. The New Yorker, pp. 118-20. [“Most of the principle early-modern trends are represented… the De Stijl group by Theo van Doesburg’s ‘Space-Time Construction #3”.] (See worldcat.) (AAA00208.)


Painting toward architecture book / exhibition catalogue media launch, (c. October - December 1948).

(1948). Painting toward architecture. The Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art; essay by Henry-Russell Hitchcock; foreword by Alfred H. Barr, Jr.; introduction by Burton Tremaine; acknowledgements by art director Emily Hall Tremaine; book design by Bradbury Thompson. [Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 is on p. 29. Hitchcock mentions Van Doesburg on pp. 32 & 34.] New York; Duell, Sloan and Pearce; 118 pp.

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. (1948). The place of painting and sculpture in relation to Modern architecture. In The Architects’ Yearbook: 2, pp. 12-23. London. [This article is cited in Hitchcock’s Painting toward architecture book; for general reference.] (See worldcat). (AAA03307).

Dwight, Edward H. (President of the Cincinnati Modern Art Society). (20 November 1948). Painting toward architecture [book review]. Cincinnati Enquirer, p. 7. [Van “Doesburg” is mentioned among other artists.] (Cincinnati Public Library). (AAA00105.)


Venue 11: Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, (16 December 1948 - 15 January 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos have survived.

> (c. 1948). Exhibition checklist: "Van Doesburg, Theo - Space-Time Construction #3"; this object list does not include photo murals, which are mentioned in the media coverage.] (Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston archive.) (AAA00138.)

(January 1949). Architectural design and abstract art: related to Henry Russell-Miller’s book, ’Painting toward architecture’ and the current exhibit of the Miller collection of abstract art at Institute of Contemporary Design [sic?] in Boston. [Includes photo of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3. Article refers in some detail to Van Doesburg at least three times.] Architectural Record, pp. 90-4. (See worldcat.) (AAA00166a-c.)

Wight, Frederick S. (29 January 1949). Art in abstract. [The article discusses the historical works and then at the end mentions the (previous) exhibition at the ICA.] [Includes photo of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3.] Christian Science Monitor (magazine section), pp. 8-9. ("Theo van Doesburg" artist file, Emily Hall Tremaine Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; or worldcat). [AAA00911-38(-40)].

"The ’Space-Time Composition’ by the Dutch Van Doesburg illustrates the conceptions of the artists Gropius assembled. The planes organized space without shutting it off and boxing it in, and there is no sense of weight, of pyramiding from massive base to pinnacle."


Venue 12: Yale University, New Haven, CT (two shows), Yale University, New Haven, CT.


Two shows: At Yale, there were two shows presented simultaneously; according to letters this was due to space constraints. There was a smaller Painting toward architecture or "Miller Company" show, and also a show at the Yale University Art Gallery called Sculpture since Rodin which included (at least) four sculptures usually exhibited in Painting toward architecture shows.

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, or packing lists have survived for the Miller Co. show.

(c. 1948). Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston - Object list. [Handwritten notations to the left of listed artworks: "N.H." and "Col." with check marks. It is believed that after the Boston show, works were sent to the two locations, New Haven (Yale) and Columbus, as well as Meriden (presumably Miller Co.); the document is noted that Van Doesburg’s Space-Time Construction #3 was sent to New Haven.] (Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston archive.) (AAA00138.)

No media coverage relating to both shows has yet been located, except for an abstract mention of the touring show in a Yale publication.


Venue 13: Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, (18 February - 13 March 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, or packing lists have survived.

> (c. 1948). Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston - Object list. [Handwritten notations to the left of listed artworks: "N.H." and "Col." with check marks. It is believed that after the Boston show, works were sent to the two locations, New Haven (Yale) and Columbus, as well as Meriden (presumably Miller Co.).] (Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston archive. While this list indicates that Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 was sent to New Haven, it is believed that many works were afterwards sent on to Columbus.) (AAA00138.)

The limited media coverage does not mention Van Doesburg.


Venue 14: George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, MA, (27 March - 17 April 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, or packing lists have survived.

There is no mention of Van Doesburg in the one, short article found concerning the exhibition.


Venue 15: Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, (26 April - 24 May 1949).

* Starting here, Van Doesburg’s Composition XX begins to appear in the limited documentation. Based on the lack of earlier exhibition checklists or packing lists, it seems possible that Composition XX entered the Painting toward Architecture exhibition as early as the 12th venue at Yale University in January-February 1949.

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos have survived.

> (1949, undated) Packing list (from Miller Company): “40 Van Doesburg ‘Space-Time-Construction #3’”; Composition is not listed. (Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art archive, Providence, RI.) (AAA00114)

> (1949, undated) Packing list (a different list; from Miller Company), with handwritten condition notations (presumably upon receipt): “40 Van Doesburg ‘Space-Time-Construction #3’, handwritten: “came apart in trans. … OK”, also “56 Van Doesbur [sic] ‘Composition 1919-1920’”. (Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art archive, Providence, RI.) (AAA00114)

> (21 April 1949) Objects received from the Miller Company by RISD Museum: “39.49.32 Van Doesburg ‘Space-Time-Construction #3’"; Composition is not listed: (Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art archive, Providence, RI.) (AAA00114)

No media coverage on the show was found so far except for one listing.


Venue 16: Smith College, Northampton, MA, (1 June - 26 June 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no exhibition checklist or installation photos are known to have survived.

> (c. 26 May 1949). Objects sent from RISD Museum to Smith College: “40 Van Doesburg ‘Space-Time Construction #3’”; (Van Doesburg’s Composition is not listed.) (Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art archive.) (AAA00114.)

> (3 June 1949). Items received by Smith College from RISD Museum: “Van Doesburg ‘Space-Time Construction #3’”; “Van Doesburg ‘Composition’” is listed, but crossed out. (Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art archive.) (AAA00114.)

No media coverage on the show, or listings, have been found.


"Pictures being renovated at The Miller Company", (summer of 1949). (According to c. 1984 exhibition overview document. Wadsworth archive, Hartford.) [13]


Meanwhile in Australia, publication of Harry Seidler’s article "Painting toward architecture", (October 1949).


Seidler, Harry. (October 1949). Painting toward architecture. Architecture: Journal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, 37(4), pp. 119-24. [Includes similar work or cropped view of Van Doesburg’s Space-Time Construction #3 and discusses Van Doesburg’s work; Seidler seems to offer his own take on "Painting toward architecture". For any consideration of the influence of PtA, it is essential to look at Seidler’s impressive later work, as he brought PtA to Australia in a very big way.] (Online here, click link to pdf in article.) (See worldcat.) (AAA00423.)


Venue 17: Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, (30 September - 24 October 1949).


> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists have survived.

(October 1949). The Miller Company Collection. [Hitchcock talk listed in calendar.] Gallery notes, 15(1), pp. 2-3. ["Van Doesburg" is mentioned among other artists.] (Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY.) (Online here). (AAA00180.)

None of the media coverage mentions Van Doesburg.


Venue 18: Greenbrier Hotel, White Sulphur Springs, WV (during American Institute of Architects, Middle Atlantic District Conference), (4 - 5 November 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos (but see next entry), exhibition checklist, and packing lists have survived.

(December 1949). The West Virginia meeting. Journal of the American Institute of Architects, 7(6), pp. 257-60. [Only found photos with artworks in the background, but Van Doesburg works not visible.] (American Institute of Architects library / archive, Washington, DC). (AAA00146.)

A must see, speech published in two parts below:

painting toward architecture 1949


Walker, Ralph. (February 1950). The architect as a modern, part I. Journal of the American Institute of Architects, 8(2), pp. 57-61. ["An address before the meeting of the West Virginia Chapter and its guests at White Sulphur Springs, Nov. 5, 1949."] (American Institute of Architects library / archive, Washington, DC). (AAA00146.)

Walker, Ralph. (March 1950). The architect as a modern, part II. Journal of the American Institute of Architects, 8(3), pp. 119-23. ["An address before the meeting of the West Virginia Chapter and its guests at White Sulphur Springs, Nov. 5, 1949."] (American Institute of Architects library / archive, Washington, DC). (AAA00146.)

And onto another venue!


Venue 19: Georgia Tech Hightower Textile Building, Atlanta, GA (sponsored by Georgia Tech School of Architecture and the Architecture Society), (14 November - 12 December 1949).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists have survived.

(18 November 1949). The summing up [review of exhibition]. The Technique (Georgia Tech newspaper), 33(38), p. 5. (Online here.) (AAA00230.)

"The Miller collection... is chosen to illustrate the close relationship that has existed between modern art and architecture. The alliance is most clearly seen in the examples by the Dutch painters Mondrian and Van Doesburg". (Excerpt from above.)


Unlikely, but possible unknown venue (between 13 December 1949 - 7 January 1950) of Painting toward architecture.

See: Crane, Dave. (9 November 1949). Hightower building opening will present Miller exhibit of Modern abstract art. Agnes Scott News (Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA near Atlanta), pp. 1-2. (Online here.) (A01050-51.)

This report (listed in the Georgia Tech articles section on the overall PtA compilation page) states: "An exhibition of the collection in Cuba is planned for the near future." However, nothing about this has been found yet.


Venue 20: Contemporary Art Museum Houston, TX, (8 January - 2 February 1950).


Painting toward Architecture exhibition
Painting toward architecture exhibition as installed at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (January-February 1950). Courtesy the Karl Kamrath Collection, University of Texas at Austin architectural archives.


> As of 8 June 2018, no exhibition checklist and packing lists have been found.

(c. 1950). Five Painting toward Architecture installation photos showing the artworks integrated with photo-murals of designs. [Two are new compared to those previously found in the UT-Austin archive.] (CAM Houston archive, Fondren Library special collections, Rice University, Houston, TX. AAA03304-05).

The limited photos don’t appear to show Space-time construction #3 (is it by chance against the wall to the right up front?) or Composition XX.

None of the limited media coverage mentions Van Doesburg.


Venue 21: Isaac Delgado Museum of Art (now the New Orleans Museum of Art) and the Arts and Crafts Gallery, Royal Street, New Orleans, LA, (19 February - 19 March 1950).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists concerning the two venues have survived.

There is no mention of Van Doesburg in the limited media coverage.


Venue 22: U-T Audigier Gallery, Library Buildings, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (2 - 14 April 1950).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist, and packing lists have survived.

There also is no mention of Van Doesburg in the limited media coverage or limited documentation.


Venue 23: Museum of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, (23 April - 14 May 1950).


> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos have survived.

> (1950). Various documentation: Original artwork labels accompanying works on display: Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3 and Composition XX; some sort of packing list: Space-time construction #3 and Composition 1919-1920; an exhibition checklist: Space-time construction #3 and Composition 1919-1920; and some sort of handwritten list of artworks: Composition. (Bentley Historical Library, Museum of Art exhibition archive, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.) [AAA00727-07; AAA00727-15; AAA00727-69(-79).]

Enggass, Robert. (28 April 1950). Art. [Van Doesburg is mentioned in a paragraph.] The Michigan Daily. (Online here.)

Enggass, Robert. (Fall 1950). Aesthetic limitations of non-objective painting. [Published later, Enggass makes reference to the Miller Co. and specifically Victory Boogie Woogie, but his article argues about the "Aesthetic limitations of non-objective painting". So, perhaps it is worth taking a look.] College Art Journal, 10, 1, pp. 30-35. (See worldcat.) (AAA00757).

(13 May 1950). The weekend in town [lecture]. The Michigan Daily (campus newspaper, Ann Arbor, MI), p. 4. ["Van Doesburg" is mentioned among a list of artists.] (Online here.)


Venue 24: Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, (sponsored by the Madison Art Association with the cooperation of the Union Gallery Committee), (23 May - 14 June 1950).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition and packing lists have survived.

(1950). Exhibition documentation (program sheet with object list): listed “van Doesburg, Theo – Space-Time Construction #3” and “Composition”. (University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives). (AAA00238).

(14 May 1950). Miller show explains the abstract. Wisconsin State Journal. (University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives). (AAA00226.)

“The blending of the two fields is graphically pointed out in the coming exhibition in paintings by the Dutch artists Mondrian and Van Doesburg… Van Doesburg’s work typically includes an arrangement of colored planes, which suggest the free arrangement of space and rooms [?] so important in contemporary architecture.”


(c. 20 May 1950). Union galleries to exhibit collection of abstract art. Capital Times. [Photo: Van Doesburg’s Space-Time Construction #3 with caption; Van Doesburg mentioned within a list of artists.] (University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives). (AAA00239.)

(21 May 1950). Painting, architecture exhibit to show space arrangement. Wisconsin State Journal, Section 3. [Van Doesburg mentioned within a list of artists.] (Madison Public Library, Wisconsin). (AAA00225.)

(26 May 1950). Miller "Painting toward architecture" show gives a circus atmosphere. Daily Cardinal [University of Wisconsin-Madison student newspaper]. [Includes photo of Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3; other than the photo caption, the short article does not mention Van Doesburg.] (University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.) (AAA00239.)

(4 June 1950). Art exhibit shows influence of painting on architecture [photos and captions]. [Includes Van Doesburg’s Composition XX.] Wisconsin State Journal, Section 4, p. 11. (University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.) (AAA00226b.)


Possible unknown venue(s) (between 15 June 1950 - January 1951) of Painting toward architecture.



Venue 25: Person Hall Gallery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, (c. 21 January - 25 February 1951).

> (1950-51). Packing list - lists "40 - Van Doesburg - Space-Time-Construction #3" and "59 - Van Doesburg - Composition 1919[-]1920". ["January 1951: Miller Company Collection, North Carolina Architects Exhibition" folder, Box 9, Subseries 4.3. Exhibition Records, Department of Art of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1934-1987, University Archives, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina Libraries, Chapel Hill, NC.] (AAA00849).

(20 January 1951). Architects to hold meeting tomorrow. The Daily Tar Heel [UNC university newspaper], p. 1. ["Van Deesburg" (sic) is mentioned among a list of artists.] (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library). (AAA00135.)

(27 January 1951). View painting, sculpture exhibit at UNC: ’Painting toward architecture’ now on exhibit at UNC. News and Observer, (Raleigh, NC), p. 7. ["Van Doesburg’s ’Space-Time Construction’ suggests designing buildings in colored planes." Article includes photo of Serge Chermayeff.] (Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh, NC.) (AAA03323).


Venue 26: Parthenon, Nashville, TN, sponsored by the University of Tennessee extension center, (4 March - 6 April 1951).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist and packing lists have survived.

Two short newspaper articles do not mention Van Doesburg.


(22- 29 April 1951). [Unknown exhibition title], Memorial Room, Willard Straight Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Please note, no information has yet been located at the Cornell University special collections department after two key prospective files were reviewed, and there is no mention of Van Doesburg works in the limited media coverage.

However, my sense is that given the defined frame of the exhibition and the number of works on view that further information may reveal that at least one Van Doesburg work was in this show. Therefore see:

Semonin, Douglas. (26 April 1951). Art review. The Cornell Daily Sun, p. 7. ( Online here).


Possible unknown venue(s) (between 30 April - 28 October 1951) of Painting toward architecture.


Van Doesburg work(s) at additional exhibition at Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, not defined as Painting toward architecture

7 May - 2 June 1951. Painters of De Stijl. Debut of Abstract Art in Holland, 1917-21 at Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.

> (c. 2017). Exhibition history of Theo van Doesburg’s Composition XX, (1920). (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza archive, Madrid.) (AAA03354, at this early juncture, it seems possible that Space-time construction #3 might also have been in the show.)


Not part of PtA exhibition, but of interest: "Design as a function of management" design conference, Aspen, Colorado (28 June - 1 July 1951).


The overall Painting toward architecture initiatives at the Miller Company interface not only with art and architecture history, but also design history. To date, not a lot is known about Miller Co. design during the 1945-55 time period.

> Here, at the inaugural conference organized by Walter Paepcke, Burton Tremaine was invited to speak about the art/design work at The Miller Company. This conference is known for its importance in design history.

Middleton, R. Hunter & Ebin, Alexander. (c. 1951). IMPRESSIONS from the Design Conference held at Aspen, Colorado, June 28 through July 1, 1951. Approx. 27 pp. [International Design Conference in Aspen papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago; First IDCA Conference pamphlet, 1951, Box 15, Folder 734.] (AAA00721b.)

In this conference summary document, it is said that Tremaine discussed the Miller Co. art collection and the travelling PtA exhibition among other company design and business activities. Van Doesburg is not specifically mentioned.


Van Doesburg work(s) at additional exhibition at Stedelijk Museum, not defined as Painting toward architecture

6 July - 25 September 1951. De Stijl at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

> (c. 2017). Exhibition history of Composition XX, (1920). (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza archive, Madrid.) (AAA03354, at this early juncture, it seems possible that Space-time construction #3 might also have been in the show.)


Venue 27: Dwight Hall, Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, (29 October - 17 November 1951).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist and packing lists have survived. The one college newspaper article previewing the exhibition does not mention Van Doesburg.


Van Doesburg works at additional exhibition at Smith College, not defined as Painting toward architecture

(3 December 1951 - 23 January 1952). Paintings from the Miller Company Collection. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA.

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos exhibition checklist, and packing lists have survived.

> (24 SEP 1951) Correspondence: EHT to Henry-Russell Hitchcock (for background). (Smith College Museum of Art archive, Northampton, MA.) (AAA00079.)

> (c. September 1951). List of paintings asked for by the Smith College Museum of Art: "40. - Van Doesburg - Space-Time-Construction #3"; and "59. Van Doesburg - Composition 1919-20". (Smith College Museum of Art archive, Northampton, MA.) (AAA00080.)

> (c. 1951). Presumed Miller Co. packing list, or conceivably a list to have chosen from: "40 - Van Doesburg - Space-Time-Construction #3"; and "59 Van Doesburg - Composition 1919-20". (Smith College Museum of Art archive, Northampton, MA.) (AAA00081.)


Venue 28: Farnsworth Art Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, (c. 8 May - 1 June 1952).

> As of 8 June 2018, no known installation photos, exhibition checklist and packing lists have survived. The correspondence received from the Wellesley College archive only mentions a couple of artworks and does not specify any Van Doesburg artworks in the show.

> (c. 1984). Documentation: Overview and dates. [On this document, "All paintings in collection were exhibited at the [Farnsworth] Museum, Wellesley College in Mass. and were returned by 6/1/52." However, it is unclear exactly when this document was made, who was consulted, and if it was fact-checked. The dates on this documentation do not always correspond to the dates put forth by the venues and the documentation. See my list in the overall PtA compilation which is based on—and shows— found documentation.] (Wadsworth Atheneum archive). (AAA00363.)

Teasdale, Molly. (15 May 1952). Art critic: Farnsworth exhibit. Wellesley College News. ["Hence much of the art of Mondrian, Van Doesburg, and others is perfected within a range of purpose which is very narrow and limited..." There is no other mention of Van Doesburg or specific Van Doesburg works.] (Wellesley College Archives, Wellesley, MA.) (AAA00041.)


In theory, there could be possible unknown venue(s) of Painting toward architecture after 2 June 1952 but this is unlikely.

Six years later, [a completely different take on] Painting toward architecture at Trinity College Library, Hartford, CT. (c. 26 May - 13 June 1958).

This show exhibited 13 artworks from the Miller Company with color transparency enlargements by Ezra Stoller of the new Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. headquarters in Bloomfield, CT, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with interior by Knoll Associates and landscape design by Isamu Noguchi. The show was organized by Charles B. Ferguson and Ezra Stoller.

> As of February 2018, no installation photos, exhibition checklist, or information found via queries at SOM archive, Connecticut General corporate archive, and Trinity College archive. However, given the media coverage, it seems that Space-Time Construction #3 was in the show. Composition XX was possibly in the show as well, but so far there is no evidence.

(25 May 1958). Trinity to hold abstract art, design exhibit. Hartford Courant, p. 13D. ["The paintings included in the exhibit are by Picasso and other cubists, a classical Mondrian work, and compositions by Van Doesburg, Leger and Klee."] (See worldcat.) (AAA00785.)

T. H. P. (27 May 1958). Conn. General’s design compared in art exhibit. Hartford Courant, p. 28. ["... Mr. Stoller and Mr. Ferguson have cleverly contrived, at least, to make it look as if Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Kurt Schwitters and Hans Arp had leaned over the drafting boards with them... We see the ’painted constructions intersecting in space’ of Van Doesburg in the interior layouts..."] (See worldcat.) (AAA00787.)


Some additional information and sources concerning the two Theo van Doesburg works after Painting toward architecture

Blake, Peter. (1973). Architecture for the new world, the work of Harry Seidler. [Page 32 shows "Space-time construction", courtesy, Mr. & Mrs. Burton Tremaine.] (See worldcat) (AAA03365).

(1984). The Tremaine Collection - 20th Century Masters: The spirit of modernism [exhibition catalogue accompanying exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum, (26 February - 29 April 1984)]. [Van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3, p. 150; a notation on Composition XX previously sold, p. 184. Preface by Tracy Atkinson, and essays by Robert Rosenblum and Gregory Hedberg, offer commentary on Painting toward architecture. For reference, Piet Mondrian’s Victory Boogie Woogie is on the exhibition cover. Also, for general reference, excerpts of interviews of Emily Hall Tremaine are included.] (See worldcat). (AAA003352; AAA003355-56; AAA03361-64).

Christie’s. (1991). Important Modern paintings from the Tremaine Collection, New York, Tuesday, November 5, 1991. [On pp. 60-1, Theo van Doesburg’s Space-time construction #3, (1924). Also, introductory essay by former Wadsworth director Tracy Atkinson for reference, pp. 10-1.] (See worldcat). (AAA03357-60).

theo van doesburg space time construction #3 harry seidler penelope seidler
(1992). Photo of Space-time construction #3 with Penelope and Harry Seidler at their home in Killara, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. The work was bought in 1992 from Berlin dealer Jürgen Holstein. Courtesy of Penelope and Polly Seidler.



Housley, Kathleen L. (2001). Emily Hall Tremaine: Collector on the cusp. Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation: Meriden, CT. [See "chapter 6: Painting toward architecture".] [Online here (direct to pdf)].

Belogolovsky, Vladimir. (2014). Harry Seidler lifework. [Page 30 shows Space-time construction #3.] Rizzoli. (AAA03366).

Belogolovsky, Vladimir. (2017). Harry Seidler: The exhibition. Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers. (See a two photos of Space-time construction #3 in the book. (See sample pages gallery.)



Robert Preece is a Contributing Editor of Sculpture magazine and editor of artdesigncafe based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Footnotes:

FN1: This compilation is based on the overall, developing Painting toward architecture compilation. I screened this extensive material closely and when Van Doesburg or the artworks were mentioned, that is listed above. On the overall compilation, the notation "^" means that the material was reviewed and incorporated into the Van Doesburg-specific bibliography. (The "*" notation refers to a similar compilation referring to another artwork in the show, Victory Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian.)

Also please note that the sources mentioned in this introductory essay are listed in the bibliography which follows.





READ MORE about Painting toward architecture:
1: Painting toward architecture - Miller Co. press release | 2: Painting toward architecture: Documentation and historical information | 3: Painting toward architecture - artworks and designs | 4: Article - "Rethinking ’Painting toward architecture’ (2017)" | 5: Article - "Painting toward architecture: Three works, three histories, three Modern mysteries" (2017) | 6: Article - "Van Doesburg artworks in PtA" | 7: Miller Co / Tremaine art & design in exhibitions (1945-present)