The orbit of human vision has widened and art has annexed fresh territories that were formerly denied to it. – Max Bill
Max Bill was one of the most accomplished and multitalented artists of the twentieth century. Bill worked as an architect, painter, graphic and industrial artist, sculptor, designer, teacher and politician. He was able to combine fine art, science and design to create art, buildings, furniture, fonts and sculpture.
Bill was born in Switzerland in 1908. After apprenticing with a silversmith, he attended the Bauhaus in 1927, where he was heavily influenced by his teachers, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
He moved to Zurich in 1929, where he began a career as a designer, whose work influenced many of the modern artists who came after him.
Max Bill’s Timeless Designs
A recent issue of Forbes magazine called Max Bill’s Chronoscope watch design,”one of the best.” “The Chronoscope remains incredibly faithful to the original designs Bill produced in the 1960s,” according to Forbes, “adding all the quality available to a modern manufacturer.”
Bill designed the watch for the Junghans watch company in 1962 and the design has continued to be manufactured each year for the last fifty-six years. The original watches are collectors items and the current pieces are coveted for their timeless design.
Before the Chronoscope, Bill designed one of the world’s most classic kitchen clocks, one of which is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The clock was designed by Bill, along with some of his students at the Ulm School of Design in Ulm, Germany, which he founded in 1953.
“Functional design considers the visual aspect, that is, the beauty, of an object as a component of its function,” Bill said, “but not one that overwhelms its other primary functions.”
Max Bill’s Concrete Art
Max Bill was part of the Concrete Art movement, which began in 1930. It was an anti-impressionist movement, which advocated using clarity and mechanical painting techniques with simple elements.
Bill embraced the practice in all of his work. He used clear, clean lines in his designs of everything from buildings to furnishings.
His paintings and prints appear simple, but they are well thought out, and even the colors and materials he used were often more complex than they appear at first glance.
One of the requirements of Concrete Art, listed in the group’s manifesto in 1930, was that:
A work of art must be entirely conceived and shaped by the mind before its execution. It shall not receive anything of nature’s or sensuality’s or sentimentality’s formal data. We want to exclude lyricism, drama, symbolism, and so on.
That philosophy can be seen in Max Bill’s paintings and prints, like Combillation, a screenprint available at VFA, that Bill did on four plastic panels in 1970. His unique use of color, material and design reflect the Concrete Artists’ desire to keep things simple and relatable.
The first line of the Concrete Art manifesto is: Art in universal. Max Bill remained true to the manifesto throughout his long, illustrious career, until his death in 1994.
Max Bill Work at VFA
Please contact us if you would like more information about Combillation, or any of the other fine works available at VFA.
Sean Lorentzen. Forbes. Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Is Still One Of The Best Minimalist Watches. July 20,2018.
Emma Calder. Junghans timepiece snaps up Red Dot Award just weeks after release.WatchPro. May 10, 2018.
SwissInfo.Two Winterthur museums honour Switzerland’s “universal artist”. January 30,2008.