Piet Zwart, the oldest of the artists in this exhibition, studied painting and decorative arts in the Art Nouveau period, then taught drawing and made furniture and housewares in the second two decades of the 20th century. As an apprentice to the great Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Zwart had a hand in his master’s design of dishes using the recently introduced technique of pressed glass. Zwart was enamored with manufacturing technology, and he soon specialized in what would later be called industrial design, working long-term with corporations to shape their brand identities across a range of products. (Examples from the Netherlands Cable Factory [NKF] are included in the exhibition. Greatly influenced by El Lissitzky and international Constructivism, Zwart developed a feel for translucent planes and taut, diagonal lines that evoked the rapid movement of cinema, one of his great passions. Working on behalf of radio, cable, photography, and experimental film, Zwart was a telecommunications specialist who saw graphic design as an aid to distance learning.
Piet Zwart. Cover for J.F. Otten, Amerikaansche filmkunst (American Film Art), Vol. 7 of Film: die serie monografieën over filmkunst (Film: A Series of Monographs on the Art of Film), ed. C. J. Graadt (detail), 1931. Frederick W. Renshaw Fund. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / c/o Pictoright Amsterdam.