Max Bill (b. 1908 – d. 1994) was a Swiss designer/artist/architect, a prolific design practitioner and a theoritician of the Concrete art aesthetic and Environmental design. He had served as an educator at several institutions at various points in his life and had also initiated the The Ulm School of Design in Germany in 1953.His works were derived from a mathematical approach to art and design without letting go of an imaginative use basic forms.
These ideas were made explicit in the critical text “die mathematische denkweise in der kunst unserer zeit”, werk, nr. 3, 1949 and were manifested in all his compositions in industrial design, typography and sculptures in public spaces.
His importance to modern art is attested to by the various awards and recognitions he had recieved in his lifetime.
“The mathematical approach in art is not actual mathematics.It is the design of rhythms and relationships.” (Max Bill)
“Art needs emotion and thought. (…) Thought makes it possible to order emotional values so that works of art can emerge from them. The primal element of any pictorial work is geometry, relating the layers in two or three dimensions. And so, just as mathematics is one of the essential resources of primary thought and thus of gaining insights into the world around us, it plays the same role among the basic elements of a science of relationships, the way one thing, one group, one movement relates to another, and because it enshrines these elemental things within it, and places them in meaningful relationships with each other, it is obvious that it will present such elements so that they will become image.” (Max Bill. 1949, quoted from cat. M.B., Locarno 1991, p. 104)
A list of critical texts attributed to Max Bill can be viewed here >>>.
1908 Born on December 22 in Winterthur, Switzerland
1924 – 1927 Trained as a Silversmith at the Arts and Crafts Academy in Zurich
1927 – 1928 Studied at the Bauhaus, College of Design,Dessau.
1929 Moved to Zurich. Worked as an Architect, Painter, Graphic Artist, Sculptor.
1932 – 1933 Constructs his studio and home in Zurich. Also Starts working on his first sculptures.
1936 Formulated the Principles of Concrete Art, as a refinement of the ideas published by Theo van Doesburg.
1937 Works on a monograph on Le Corbusier. Joins the Allianz” assosiation of Modern swiss artists.
1944 – 1945 Founded the journal ‘abstrakt konkret’ and organized an exhibition in the Basel ‘Kunsthalle’ under the same title; obtained a teaching position to teach ‘theory of form’ at the Zurich School of Applied Arts.
1947 Founded the IPC, Institute of Progressive Culture.
1949 Awarded the Prix Kandinsky, in Paris.
1951 Awarded the grand Prizes for the ‘ Sculpture Biennale, Sao Paulo and at the’Milan Triennale, Italy.
1952 to 1956 Co-Initiates The Ulm School of Design, Ulm, Germany and heads the architecture department.
1959 Particpates at the Kassel Documenta, again in 1964.
1961 to 1964 Chief architect of the building and design sectors for the Swiss national exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland,1964.
1961 to 1968 Member of the municipal council of Zurich.
1967 Professorship at the State School for Fine Arts in Hamburg, teaching environmental design.
1968 Received the Zurich Art Award.
1972 Member of the academy of Arts, Berlin.
1979 Awarded the Culture Prize of the city of Winterthur; Offred Honory doctorate of the University of Stuttgart.
1986 Monolithic sculpture ‘Continuity’ installed at Frankfurt.
1987 Awarded the Frank J.Malin Leonardo Prize by the International Society of teh Arts,Science and Technology at Berkeley, USA.
1994 Died at the age of 86 years on December 9 during a visit to Berlin.
Max Bill teaching, 1955 . Photo: Ernst Hahn .