Max Bill 1908–1994
Born in Winterthur, Switzerland in 1908, Max Bill was a polymath artist who transformed post-war design through his industrial objects, sculpture, and graphic design. As a child, Bill grew up in a household that encouraged his artistic talents and his parents frequently took him to art exhibitions. Bill began his formal training as a silversmith at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich. However, he disagreed with the views of his professors and Bill was expelled in 1927. Soon after, he was accepted at the Bauhaus where he studied in the architectural department with László Moholy-Nagy. Bill began exploring the new field of graphic design in 1930 and collaborating on typography projects with his wife, Angela Thomas Bill. The following year he experimented with the creation of hard-edged sculptures; he felt that “it [was] possible to develop an art largely on the basis of mathematical thinking,” and his works prominently featured geometric shapes like the Möbius strip.
At the urging of Jean (Hans) Arp, Bill joined a new society known as Abstraction Creation in Paris and he became friends with Georges Vantongerloo and Theo van Doesburg. In 1951, Bill was invited to head the architectural and product design departments of the famed Ulm School of Design. He would later go on to serve as a professor of environmental design at the State Institute of Fine Arts in Hamburg from 1967 to 1974. In 1988, the Guggenheim Museum in New York honored Bill with a retrospective of his works. In 1993, a year before his death, he received the Imperial Award for Excellence in sculpture from the Emperor of Japan. Today, Bill’s work is held in many prestigious collections across the globe.