Max Bill (1908 – 1994) – Swiss painter, sculptor, architect, designer, teacher, and writer

Max Bill Wechlin-Tissot & Co, Zürich, Artz- und Spitalbedarf 1930s
Max Bill Wechlin-Tissot & Co, Zürich, Artz- und Spitalbedarf 1930s

Max Bill (1908 – 1994) was a Swiss painter, sculptor, architect, designer, teacher, and writer. He studied at the Bauhaus from 1927 to 1929, then returned to Switzerland, primarily in Zurich. He saw himself as primarily an architect, but he worked in several fields, with the ultimate goal of bringing the various branches of the visual arts together—he once described art as the “sum of all functions in harmonious unity.”

Sculptures

However, he is best known for his sculptures, which are characterised by smooth, elegant, spiralling abstract forms in stone or polished metal. He borrowed van Doesburg’s word “concrete art” to describe his work in this vein, popularising it in Switzerland in place of “abstract.” He travelled to Argentina and Brazil in 1941 to introduce the concept of Concrete sculpture. He was a tireless promoter of his concepts (he wrote several books and numerous articles in English and German) and organised exhibitions of abstract art).

Max Bill Half-Sphere around Two Axes 1966
Max Bill Half-Sphere around Two Axes 1966

His sculptures have been regarded as Minimal art forerunners. Still, they reflect a subtle blending of mathematics and intuition, and some Minimalists, such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris, have disputed his influence.

Architecture

Bill’s work as an architect included his own home in Zurich (1932–3) and the lauded Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm (1951–5), where he built an austerely elegant complex of buildings delicately placed in a romantic setting on a shoestring budget. From 1951 to 1957, he was a co-founder of the school and the architecture and product design departments’ director.

Works

Max Bill Junghams wrist watch
Max Bill Junghams wrist watch
Kitchen Clock designed by Max Bill for Junghans
Kitchen Clock designed by Max Bill for Junghans

Sources

Chilvers, I. (2011). The Oxford dictionary of art. Oxford University Press.

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