Happy Birthday Piet Mondrian!

Piet Mondrian 1942

Today is the birthday of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (b. 1877 – 1944).  This artist is sometimes known as the father of geometric abstraction.  He studied at the Amsterdam Academy.  He moved away from painting landscapes in the Dutch tradition to Impressionism and on to Expressionism.  But is was when he lived in Paris  (1911 – 14) that he started to be influenced by Cubism and this began to show in his work.

The mill under the sun 1908 Mondrian fauvist and pointillism influenced

He became one of founding members of the De Stijl group in 1917 in Holland.   De  Stijl means ‘Style’ – also known as Neoplasticism and is referred to a body of work from 1917 – 1931 which came from the Netherlands.

the blooming apple tree 1912 mondrian getting away from the figurative

Proponents of De Stijl sought to express a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. They advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour; they simplified visual compositions to the vertical and horizontal directions, and used only primary colors along with black and white. Indeed, according to the Tate Gallery’s online article on neoplasticism, Mondrian himself sets forth these delimitations in his essay ‘Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art’. He writes, “… this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.” The Tate article further summarizes that this art allows “only primary colours and non-colours, only squares and rectangles, only straight and horizontal or vertical line.” The Guggenheim Museum’s online article on De Stijl summarizes these traits in similar terms: “It [De Stijl] was posited on the fundamental principle of the geometry of the straight line, the square, and the rectangle, combined with a strong asymmetricality; the predominant use of pure primary colors with black and white; and the relationship between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of non-objective forms and lines.”[ (wikipedia)

composition 1922 typical neoplasticim

Mondrian’s work eventually became completely abstract.  His interest in the behaviour of nature and the randomness of the weather translated itself into geometrical compositions consisting of ‘feminine’ horizontals and ‘masculine’ verticals (worldly and ‘other worldly’).

Everything in his life was reasoned or calculated. He was a compulsive neurotic and could never bear to see anything disordered or untidy. He seemed to suffer acutely, for instance, if a table had not been laid with perfect symmetry.

– Hannah Höch on Piet Mondrian, quoted by Edouard Roditi

Mondrian’s art was deemed as ‘degenerate’ by Hitler in 1933 and the artist moved to London in 1938, and on to New York in 1940, where he died in 1944.

mondrian inspired footwear

Mondrian’s work is easily recognisable.  The  simple grid with thick black lines separating primary colours has lent itself to contemporary design on clothing , shoes and ceramics and many others.

Broadway Boogie Woogie 1942 - 43 Mondrian

Piet Mondrian website here

PS  I have a new poem on  Bookstains, it’s called  The day with No name

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4 Responses to “Happy Birthday Piet Mondrian!”

  1. Happy Birthday! I’ve come across his work before and now I have a name attached. Thank you. 🙂

  2. You are welcome ikehaus! I’ve kind of broken a rule here with this artist, as I meant to only include ones that I really liked. Don’t dislike him as such, but I’ve included him because his style is iconic – and it’s everywhere. thanks for visiting and you kind comments – always appreciated!

  3. Lynda, this is a wonderful post. I really never understood his work. The video was a super treat and I watched in utter amazement the exactness of his work as it flowed on and one went to the next. It helps to know about his wanting everything ordered. How could he not paint like this?

  4. Thanks Leslie, Must admit he’s not a great fave of mine but he was very innovative and really did his own thing, which I admire. He studied philosophy and theology and was quite spiritual and believed in the ordered form in nature. even his apartment was thought out in this way!
    Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your much appreciated comments!

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