Blijdorp Municipal Housing
1931-2 by J. J. P. Oud
The V&A’s Modernist exhibition (2006) did something important in presenting the movement not just an art form, but a way of life. We were reminded of the extremes that followers saw their lives becoming, from Marinetti’s designs for Futurist uniforms to a complete recreation of the ultimate “modern” (and never realised) kitchen. Oud’s painting reflects this newly presented way of life completely, showing us the desired Modernist world in all its clinically perfected glory. The drawing is meticulously aware of its perspective; streamlined windows shoot into the distance, pushed onwards by their shining steel rails, giving the composition a futurist’s movement, powering the image into its Modern idealism. Trees stand to attention in neat rows, their shadows falling in line in regimented reflections. The whole image has an element of make-believe, a dream world too perfect, too sharply defined to be real, encouraged by the diluted colour that seems distilled, so much so that the sky is left colourless. Though the nature of this painting has much to do with its architectural purpose, a plan not a scene, there is something in this clinical perfection that reflects the Modernist frame of mind itself – a clean world spread before us; we gaze, as the prospective buyer does from her strictly lined balcony, at the Modernist view.