Thursday, March 5, 2015

Piet Mondrian

Self-Portrait - Piet Mondrian 1900
Piet Mondrian, original name Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan   (born March 7, 1872, Amersfoort, Netherlands, died Feb. 1, 1944, New York, N.Y., U.S.), painter who was an important leader in the development of modern abstract art and a major exponent of the Dutch abstract art movement known as De Stijl (“The Style”). In his mature paintings, Mondrian used the simplest combinations of straight lines, right angles, primary colours, and black, white, and gray. The resulting works possess an extreme formal purity that embodies the artist’s spiritual belief in a harmonious cosmos.

He was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed neoplasticism. This consisted of white ground, upon which was painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors.

Between his 1905 painting, The River Amstel, and his 1907 Amaryllis, Mondrian changed the spelling of his signature from Mondriaan to Mondrian.

Mondrian's early works were naturalistic and impressionistic landscapes, but his discovery of cubism around 1910 put him on the path toward pure abstraction. He left his home in the Netherlands for Paris in 1912, but returned to the Netherlands in 1914 to care for his sick father. He remained there during World War I, exploring abstract forms and formulating an approach he called neo-plasticism. Back in Paris after the war, he made what may be his most famous painting, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue (1921), a composition of primary colors in rectangles on a grid of black lines. In 1938 he went to England and in 1940 he moved to New York, where he continued to discard "non-essentials" and restrict his works to "basic forms of beauty." Influenced by the philosophical approach of theosophy, Mondrian believed painting to be a two-dimensional interpretation of nature that is guided by the artist's intuition. His paintings include Still Life with Ginger Pot I (1911), Composition (1916) and Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43).
There, Mondrian’s style entered its last phase. Throughout the 1930s, Mondrian’s work had become increasingly severe. Inspired by his regained freedom, New York City’s pulsating life, and the new rhythms of American music, after 1940 he broke away first from the austere patterns of black lines, replacing them with coloured bands. Then, in place of the continuous flow of these bands, he substituted a series of small rectangles that coalesced into a rhythmic flow of colourful vertical and horizontal lines. His late masterpieces New York City I and Broadway Boogie Woogie, exhibited in 1943 - 44, in his first personal exhibition in more than two decades—express this new vivacity through the autonomous, joyous movement of colour blocks. Buoyed by his hope for a better future, Mondrian started his Victory Boogie Woogie in 1942; it remained unfinished when he succumbed to pneumonia in 1944.


Steve Ruhig-Allen said...

Christo, thank you for this wonderful exposition of Mondrian's aesthetic. I've long loved Mondrian in a purely intuitive way, without knowing anything about his rationalistic optimism. The rational really is beautiful, and even if it's only a part of a much richer existential fabric--with many dark and tragic regions so relentlessly explored by other twentieth-century painters--it's important to visit the realm of the rational and experience its joy from time to time. --Steve Ruhig-Allen

Christo Spyker said...

Thanks Steve, for your comment. Piet Mondrian always fascinated me. I did already know some of his early work. There would be so much more to write about this painter and I hope more people would read more about him to understand him and his work.