Piet Zwart, Tree
Tree with Snow

Piet Zwart (1885-1977) was a Dutch photographer and designer. Originally trained as an architect, Zwart began working with graphic design and typography in the early 1920s while teaching at the Rotterdam Academy of Visual Arts. Zwart began incorporating photomontage into his compositions after being introduced to the technique by fellow De Stijl artist El Lissitzky, and went on to work as an independent graphic designer and photographer, producing advertisements for notable clients including NKF (the Dutch cable works) and PTT (the Dutch postal service), among many others. His innovative methods and style were noted by members of the Bauhaus School, where Zwart was invited to give a series of lectures in 1929. In 1933, Zwart was dismissed from his teaching position at the Rotterdam Academy of Visual Arts for what were considered radical ideas on education—ideas that were very similar to those championed by the Bauhaus School. Zwart was a member of the Circle of New Advertising Designers—a group founded by Kurt Schwitters—as well as the Dutch Worker Photography movement. In 2000, Zwart was posthumously awarded the title of “Designer of the Century” by the Association of Dutch Designers. Somewhat ironically, the Piet Zwart Institute at the Willem de Kooning Academy (formerly the Rotterdam Academy of Visual Arts) was named in Zwart’s memory in 2001.