Piet Mondrian

Published 14 Feb 2017

Piet Mondrian was born into Dutch Aristocracy in Amersfoort, Netherlands in March 7, 1872. He studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. He was a teacher in Primary Education and a painter on the side.

Mondrian’s early works were landscapes in subdued colors depicting Holland, its windmills, fields and rivers. His style was impressionistic, but vertical and horizontal lines were already evident which would later be a prominent characteristic of his works. Around 1908 his colors became brighter. Dutch painter Toorop was a great influence as he began to shift to expressionism. He called his paintings as compositions and his style continued to evolve for his next 30 active years. He experimented with different styles and techniques apparently in search of a style all his own. Similarly art movements like pointillism and favism had influences on works. His early abstracts from 1905-1908 were mostly of trees and houses reflected in water that appeared like blots of ink.

From 1872-1944 his art had touches of the spiritual and the philosophical. At this time the influence came from Helen Petrovna Blavatsky who began the theosophical movement that believed that there is more to nature than what can be ordinarily seen.

He moved to Paris towards the end of 1911, where he added an “a” to his name “Mondriaan”. He started to work on cubism, influenced mainly by the works of Picasso and Braque. His cubist works had interlocking planes and geometrics where picture spaces were narrow and seen from the front. He veered towards analytical cubism and seminaturalism, further leading him to abstraction. This can be seen on his series of paintings of trees and scaffoldings.

In 1914 he moved back to the Netherlands and stayed for a while because of the outbreak of WWI. By this time his art was a fusion with his philosophical studies. He moved in the art circle where he met Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesbug. The period was a great turning point for his art. Van der Leck’s influence on him as the use of primary colors. With Theo van Doesbug, he co-founded De Stijl, which was an art magazine. Mondrian published essays explaining his theories, foremost of them is neoplasticism, which believed that art should not be a mere reproduction but an artist’s expression.

Mondrian was as good with his paintings as he was with his prose. He published Die Nieuwe Beelding in de Schilderkunst or the The New Plastic in Painting to explain his art theories. An example was how he painted nature.

Like any other artist, he got so inspired and emotional with the subject that put the great desire to create. Then he placed everything and all else aside to see and paint truthfully.

In 1919 he returned to Paris and stayed until 1938. He enjoyed the art scene and developed his full potential as an artist. His abstracts came into fore, the style that he would be most known for. Grids would always be present, thinner rectangles, gray, lines fading towards edge, and leaving little space for whites. His paintings reached their mature and defining level. Forms are heavier, bolder, fewer and whites were more dominant.. His works continue to evolve.

In the mid-1920s his works were extremely minimalistic. His Schilderij No. 1: Lozenge with Two Lines and Blue was simply two black perpendicular lines with a small blue triangle. The lines extend to the end of the canvass so they appear to be a part of a much larger work.

He left Paris in September 1938 and went to London. From London he went to New York City. Some of his works were started on either Paris or London and completed in New York. His Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines had thick colored lines. His other works had long lines of red mixing with black lines , or interlacing red, blue and yellow lines or overlapping lines. His Broadway Boogie-Woogie had bright-colored squares that shimmered and leaped from the canvass. Victory Boogie Woogie had multi-colored adjoining rectangles. His paintings were bright and alive reflective of the upbeat mood of the city and a revolutionary deviation in style. His grids continue to be adopted by graphic design artists today, his legacy to the advertising world.

Up to the time of his death in 1944, his works continue to excite because of their different styles and movements, products of his art’s continuous evolution.


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