Pieter (Piet) Zwart
Dutch, 1885 - 1977
Homage to a Young Girl, 1925

H. 9 1/2 x W. 6 5/8 in.

Trained as an architect, Piet Zwart described himself as a typotekt. He also worked as an interior and furniture designer and as an architectural critic. Throughout a long career which lasted into the 1960s, he designed advertisements and logotypes drawn in geometric lettering for various firms. In 1921 Zwart was first engaged in typographic experiments with which his reputation is now justly linked. A year later he concentrated on mass-produced items, which were exhibited in Paris along with his typography.

The period of the 1920s was particularly decisive, bringing Zwart together with many avant-garde designers and artists who complemented and reinforced his sensibility. During 1922 and 1923 he became friendly with El Lissitzky, most probably meeting him through Kurt Schwitters, then involved with Theo van Doesburg in the early publication of the journal Merz.Zwart’s free-form inventions, using elements found in the printer’s typecase, are derived in some measure from Lissitzky’s similar experiments. Zwart became instantly aware of the possibilities of designing directly with typographic material and demonstrated an almost immediate mastery. Over the next ten years, in nearly 300 advertisements, Zwart moved from pure typography to combining photographs and photomontages with type.

In this typographic experiment, he used type, ornaments, and rules in a free, playful composition with words running up, down, across, and diagonally over the page. Devised by the placement of elements from the typecase, this is the only free-form type composition Zwart produced in his career. The composition is based on the four letters of the artist’s first name, Z for Zwart, and the date.