Max Bill was one of the most avid proponents of the “principle of order” and sought to align almost all of his designs within what he termed “mathematical thinking,” which he considered the basis of human experience. He first trained as a silversmith in Switzerland before studying at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany (1927–29). In the 1930s he was influenced by the ideas of De Stijl movement (1917–31; also known as Neoplasticism), especially as put forth in its manifesto, The Basis of Concrete Art (1930), by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931). Using this essay as a basis for his own investigations into concrete forms, Bill later organized the seminal exhibition Konkrete Kunst (Concrete Art) at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1944.
In 1953 Bill co-founded the Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm, where he both designed the building and developed its Bauhaus-based curriculum, which later integrated science and art. Bill exhibited extensively in the postwar period. His sculpture Dreiteilige Einheit (Tripartite Unity, YEAR), which won first prize at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1951, influenced the emergence of Concrete art in Latin America. Bill’s work has been exhibited extensively, including the first three Documentas, Kassel (1955; 1959; 1964); and retrospectives at the Kunsthaus Zürich (1968–69); the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1974); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City (1988).