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Theo van Doesburg

/Works and biography

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Composition in Gray (Rag time), 1919
Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 59.1 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 40


This monochromatic abstraction mimics the syncopated rhythms of rag-time and illustrates a couple performing the still-popular American dance: the man is on the right, his foot firmly planted at the bottom of the composition, his left arm raised at shoulder level. The woman, slightly shorter, performs a rag-time kick (the two vertical parallel lines in the lower left quadrant are her foot—this is a back kick from the knee). Her waist is located in the shaded oval-in-a-rectangle half way up the left side of the composition. We know all this thanks to a realistic preliminary sketch.

credits: Hangar Design Group