Piet Mondrian

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Piet Mondrian. Photo from De Stijl , Vol. V, No. 12 (December 1922)Mondrian signature

Piet Mondrian (actually Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan ; born March 7, 1872 in Amersfoort , Netherlands , † February 1, 1944 in New York City , New York ) was a Dutch painter of classical modernism . The artist who created the neo-plasticism style is considered to be the most important representative of Dutch constructivism as well as the concrete art that Theo van Doesburg calls this . With his later work he was one of the founders of abstract painting .

Mondrian began painting in the Impressionist style of the Hague School around 1900 . From around 1908 he worked under the influence of Vincent van Gogh and Fauvism . After moving to Paris in 1911, he turned to Cubism under the influence of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso . From the 1920s, Mondrian created the well-known strictly geometric paintings that are attributed to neoplasticism. Its characteristic structure of a black grid, combined with rectangular areas in the basic colors , has been used in art, architecture, fashion, advertising and popular culture right up to the present day. As an art theorist and co-founder of the De Stijl artists' association , Mondrian wrote, among other things, the font Le Néo-Plasticisme , which was translated into German in 1925 as Bauhaus Book No. 5 under the title Neue Gestaltung. Neo-plasticism, Nieuwe Beelding was published. He loosened up the new works created in exile in New York from 1940 onwards into the primary colors like a mosaic and in this way overcame the earlier strict compositions in favor of the new musical rhythm of the motif.


Education and work in the Netherlands (1872-1911)

Left to right: Carel, Piet, Christina, Willem and Louis Mondriaan, 1890

Piet Mondrian was born on March 7, 1872 as the second of five children in Amersfoort at Kortegracht 11 as the son of Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (1839-1915) and his wife Johanna Christina Mondriaan (née Kok, 1839-1909). In 1880 the family moved to Winterswijk , near the German border. His siblings were Johanna Christina, Willem-Frederik, Louis Cornelis and Carel. The mother was often ill, and the eldest daughter Christina (* 1870) had to "run" the household when she was barely eight, while the father, who started a teaching career, preferred to work overtime voluntarily and, as a strict Calvinist, frequently traveled on behalf of his church went. Mondrian, who had to do without his father's closeness, lost basic trust in his fellow man after the end of his childhood, so that he never entered into a lasting partnership.

From 1886 he took drawing lessons from his uncle Frits Mondriaan, who was a valued landscape and interior painter , and his father. Mondrian was to become a teacher according to the will of his father, and Piet Mondrian aspired to the career of a drawing teacher. For this he acquired the teaching qualification for elementary schools and the teaching qualification as a drawing teacher for higher schools in 1889 and 1892. Since Mondrian did not feel called to be a teacher, however, he decided to begin his art studies at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam in November 1892 , which he continued until 1894, with subsequent evening courses until 1897. In the same year he joined the Gereformeerde Kerk .

Self-Portrait , circa 1900, Phillips Collection , Washington, DC

During the winter of 1899/1900, the question of theosophy became important to Mondrian , and he read books that were directly related to it. He was particularly enthusiastic about the work Les Grands Initiés (The Great Initiates) by Édouard Schuré , the first edition of which was published in 1889. In 1898 and 1901 he applied for the Dutch “Prix de Rome”, the most prestigious art prize in the Netherlands. The jury rejected him both times.

Mondrian, 1899
Simon Maris: Mondrian paints on the Gein River , 1906, Gemeentemuseum , The Hague

After Piet Mondrian had sold two still lifes and commissioned a portrait, he traveled to Spain in 1901 with his friend, the painter Simon Maris . Since he did not feel comfortable there, he quickly returned to his homeland. He couldn't paint anything in Spain - the light was too different from his home. In 1904 he lived withdrawn in Uden , where he dealt more and more with theosophy, a process that would last until the end of his life.

In 1905 Mondrian moved into his first studio in Amsterdam, where he mainly made naturalistic works and scientific drawings for the University of Leiden until 1908 . In 1908 he moved into an apartment in Domburg on Walcheren in Zeeland , where he spent the summer months until 1910. Alongside Jan Toorop and Jan Sluijters , he was appointed to the board of the Moderne Kunstkring, founded by the Dutch painter and art critic Conrad Kickert in 1910, which existed until 1916.

In 1909 Mondrian joined the Theosophical Society in Amsterdam. His mother's death that same year disturbed him, and his color palette changed from bright, cheerful to darkly bright colors. In June 1911 he went to Paris for ten days, presumably to prepare the following exhibition of the Modern Art Ring. He broke off an engagement to Greet Heybroek that took place in the fall.

From October 6 to November 5, 1911, the first exhibition of the Modern Art Ring took place in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam with a total of 166 exhibits, including 93 works by foreign artists. It honored Paul Cézanne and showed 28 of his works, as well as works by Georges Braque , Pablo Picasso , André Derain , Raoul Dufy and other modern artists. Mondrian showed six works, including Evolution and The Red Mill .

First stay in Paris (1911–1914)

Piet Mondrian, 1911

Through the exhibition, Mondrian came into contact with cubism and joined this new art style. He left his homeland and moved to Paris at the end of December 1911 at the age of almost 40. There Conrad Kickert, who worked as a correspondent for the Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer , made his studio, located on the first floor of the Montparnasse train station on the first floor, at 26 Rue du Départ available to him. Piet Mondrian lived and worked here on Rue du Départ - with interruptions due to the First World War  - until January 1936. One of his studio neighbors was the Mexican painter Diego Rivera .

Mondrian, who from now on only spelled his name with an A outside the Netherlands, frequented artistic circles that met in the cafés La Coupole and Café du Dôme , and participated in soirées organized by Kickert in 1912 and 1913, for example . There he met artists like Fernand Léger , with whom he had a long-lasting friendship. However, he did not seek out Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, his painterly models. Like their Cubist pictures, Mondrian's first Parisian paintings were gray, brown and black. One example is the gray tree . In 1912 he was involved with works at the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne and in 1913 at the First German Autumn Salon in Berlin and at the Salon des Indépendants , Paris.

Return to the Netherlands (1914-1919)

In July 1914, Mondrian was in the Netherlands, probably to visit his sick father. A return to Paris was no longer possible due to the onset of World War I , although the Netherlands was neutral towards the war, and so he sought and found connection with the wealthy circles of Amsterdam. The art historian HP Bremmer , who advised the industrial family Kröller-Müller on promoting artists, gave him an annual salary that he only received until 1919. The collectors no longer liked his abstraction, which had become radical.

Manifesto I by De Stijl, 1918, English version

In 1916 Mondrian moved to Laren , where he joined the artist group Larener Schule . In that year Mondrian made the acquaintance of the mathematician and theosophist MHJ Schoenmaekers (1875–1944), who defined the concept of style as “the general in spite of the particular”, and his “vulgar philosophical” works Het Geloof van den nieuwen Mensch (Faith in the new man) and Het nieuwe wereldbeeld (The New World View ) Mondrian read during his theosophical studies. Mondrian borrowed a large part of Schoenmaekers' extremely clear terminology for his essays published in “De Stijl” and owed him the main term “nieuwe beelding”, which in Germany is very poor with “new plastic” or “neo-plasticism” instead of "New design" is translated.

Mondrian was a founding member of the De Stijl group based in Leiden in 1917 ; They included, for example, the painters Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg and the architect JJP Oud . In the magazine of the same name he began to write a larger article on "The new sculpture in painting" . In the next three years of the magazine he made an appearance both through the scope of his texts and through his commitment as the most important employee. With his essay from 1917 onwards, Mondrian was the first to succeed in working on the development of a new plastic mode of expression and this "by continuing Cubism for the realization" of a "new sculpture in painting."

Second stay in Paris (1919–1938)

After the end of the First World War, Mondrian returned to Paris in February 1919. He found his studio unchanged, the pictures left behind were still in their place. But the art scene had changed. Among other things, Picasso had returned to more representational painting. With his abstract painting, Mondrian had become the most modern painter in his environment. The triumph was followed by dejection due to the lack of recognition of his art and the lack of financial support from HP Bremmer. Mondrian came up with the plan to leave Paris and work as a wine-growing worker in the south of France. But he found new support from Dutch artist friends such as Salomon B. Slijper and painted large numbers of flower pictures that secured his livelihood. In his studio he set up a small object, an artificial flower whose leaves he had painted white. According to his own statement, she represented the missing woman in his life, which he wanted to dedicate entirely to art. Dutch Protestants used to put up flower pictures with biblical sayings at their house entrances, which may have inspired him; however, the symbolism of the flower was inconsistent with his abstract art.

Nelly van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian and Hannah Höch in Theo van Doesburg's studio, April 1924

In 1920, Mondrian's Le Néo-Plasticisme was published by Léonce Rosenberg's L'Effort Moderne . He sent a copy in 1921 with a letter to Rudolf Steiner , the founder of anthroposophy , but to his disappointment he received no feedback. In 1925 it appeared as a translation in the Bauhaus books edited by Walter Gropius as number 5 under the title Neue Gestaltung, Neoplastizismus, Nieuwe Beelding . Mondrian left the De Stijl movement in 1925. The reason was not the dispute with van Doesburg about the use of diagonals in works of art, as it is occasionally described, but rather the reason for their different views on space and its forms in architecture.

In 1926, Mondrian received Katherine Sophie Dreier , who bought a larger rhombic picture from the artist , which was shown that same year at the international exhibition of the Société Anonyme in Brooklyn . In the following years she often came to Paris to acquire further paintings by Mondrian from the artist. Also in 1926, Mondrian drafted plans for the abstract design of the library by Ida Bienert , an art collector, in Dresden-Plauen and the neoplastic stage decoration for the play L'Ephémère est éternel by Michel Seuphor . Mondrian had met Seuphor - his future biographer - in mid-May 1923.

In 1927 Mondrian published an article on new architecture which appeared in the avant-garde magazine i10 edited by the anarchist Arthur Lehning . In April 1930 he exhibited in the first and only exhibition of the artists' association Cercle et Carré , founded by Seuphor in 1929 , which consisted of a total of 80 members. In 1931, Mondrian became a member of the Abstraction-Création group , which was subsequently founded and which lasted until 1937.

At the end of 1934, Piet Mondrian received two artists in his Paris studio who were interested in his work. First the British painter Ben Nicholson visited him , then the 22-year-old Harry Holtzman , a young American painter from New York. They became close friends, and Mondrian later made Holtzman his sole heir. In March 1936, the artist moved into a new studio at 278 Boulevard Raspail, as the building on Rue du Départ, which is now the Tour Montparnasse, was demolished . After his work had already been shown in group exhibitions in London and Oxford, the American public was able to see a larger selection of Mondrian's work for the first time in the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art from 1936, which was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York . When the “ Degenerate Art ” exhibition opened in Munich in 1937 , he was one of the few foreign artists whose work was defamed as “degenerate”. A composition from the Landesmuseum Hannover was shown .

Last years in London and New York (1938–1944)

The house at 60 Park Hill Road, 2008. The blue plaque in honor of Mondrian is visible to the left of the entrance.

In 1938, with the first signs of war to come, Mondrian traveled to London on September 21 at the invitation of Ben Nicholson and moved into an apartment at 60 Park Hill Road in Hampstead . His studio was a large room on the mezzanine floor of the brick house under which Nicholson's studio was. A little further away - across a footpath through the garden - was the studio of Barbara Hepworth , who a little later became Nicholson's wife. Just before the outbreak of World War II , the couple moved to St Ives in Cornwall and offered Mondrian to join them, which he refused.

In October 1940, after the German attack on London in September of that year , he emigrated to the USA with the support of Harry Holtzman. In New York he joined the abstract artists who had united in the American Abstract Artists , founded in 1936 , and published essays on neoplasticism. The art critic and painter Charmion von Wiegand edited his writings. She interviewed him on April 12, 1941 and wrote in her diary on the same day:

"Mondrian is a light, thin man, half-bald with the sharp ascetic features of a catholic priest or scientist."

"Mondrian is a thin, thin man, half bald, with the sharp ascetic features of a Catholic priest or scientist."

His first solo exhibition in the United States took place in January and February 1942 at the Valentine Dudensing Gallery in New York. This was followed in March of that year by the joint exhibition Artists in Exile at the Gallery Pierre Matisse . A photo shows Mondrian alongside 13 other artists such as Marc Chagall , Max Ernst , Fernand Léger , Roberto Matta , Kurt Seligmann and Yves Tanguy as well as the writer André Breton . Pierre Matisse described Mondrian in a letter to his father Henri Matisse as the "saint of abstraction".

In an exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery in 1943, Mondrian Jackson influenced Pollock's artistic success. Mondrian was a member of the jury in Guggenheim's spring salon at the time, and friendly relations developed with the French surrealists , in particular with André Breton and Max Ernst. Jimmy Ernst , son of Max Ernst and secretary in Guggenheim's gallery, described that Guggenheim had only made negative comments about Pollock's submitted work Scenographic Figure with abstract and semi-abstract forms. When Mondrian described the picture as the most exciting painting he had ever seen, she changed her mind and became a patron of Pollock's work.

In January 1944, Piet Mondrian fell ill with acute pneumonia. On January 26th, Harry Holtzman took him to New York's Murray Hill Hospital on 40th Street East; there his condition deteriorated noticeably by January 31st. Mondrian died the following day at the age of 72. His grave is in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn . Friends Fritz Glarner and Harry Holtzman took series of photographs and made a film about his studio in New York. A year later, the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted the artist's first posthumous retrospective .


Early work

Mill in the Sunlight: The Winkeler Mill , 1908, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Eve; The red tree , 1908–1910, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

At the beginning of Mondrian's work, he painted landscapes of his Dutch homeland that were still influenced by impressionism , such as rural scenery with St. Jacob's Church (1899), thus following the local Hague School . The portrait of a child around 1900 is reminiscent of the religious album pictures of the time, which were traded as devotional objects . This was followed by pictures with a neo- impressionist and symbolist influence, such as passion flower (1901/08), before he began reflecting on cubism after moving to Paris from the end of 1911 and increasingly left representational painting behind.

Evolution (triptych) , 1911, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The painting Mill in Sunlight: The Winkeler Mill from 1908, for example, shows Mondrian's exploration of a traditional Dutch motif. The picture is influenced by Fauvism and is based on Vincent van Gogh . The mill, presented in backlight against a yellow-blue background, is painted with red and blue lines, the red lines partially covering the blue lines. The application of pointillist painting techniques is used as a means of dematerializing the form, and the reference to Fauvism in the coloring serves to abstract reality even more.

With the depiction of three unclothed abstract women in the triptych Evolution , his main work of 1911, which show the “three stages of knowledge”, Mondrian's religious and moral views are expressed after his study of theosophy (divine wisdom). The female figures are modeled on male warriors for God in holy war . The theme is the emergence of the new by renouncing sensual experience. The biological evolution is to be replaced by a purely spiritual development. The audience criticized it as "cold and empty."


The gray tree , 1911, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Oval composition with colored areas I , 1914, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Still life with ginger pot II , 1912, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

During the two years and seven months that Piet Mondrian spent in Paris from late December 1911 to July 1914, he followed the cubism of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and avoided the coloristic cubism of Fernand Légers and Robert Delaunays . In 1911 and 1912, for example, the gray tree , composition in gray-blue , nude and the second version of still life with a ginger pot were created . In 1913 he took part in the 29th Salon des Indépendants in Paris , where he exhibited again a year later.

Mondrian criticized Cubism of that time for not wanting to draw the logical conclusion from their own discoveries and for retaining three-dimensional space. Mondrian dissolved this deeply naturalistic conception of cubism as an abstraction by destroying space, using surfaces and transforming it into a strictly rectangular shape. From 1913 onwards, the maze of houses in Paris inspired him to incorporate everyday experiences into his cubist images. In 1914 he depicted the beauty of a firewall in composition No. VI , in which black cubist lines playfully dissolve the light blue and ocher colored motif. A year later, when he left Paris, he made several drawings of where he tried to interpret the rhythm of the sea, a theme that accompanied him since 1909, and painted the composition 10 in black and white , even starry or Christmas night called , which forms a black, abstract line pattern as a motif . In contrast to Delaunay's window pictures , which have a variety of shapes and colors, Mondrian chose uniformity and emptiness from the possibilities available in the Cubist style.


Composition with Lines , 1917, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller , Otterloo
Light colored surfaces with gray outlines , 1918, private collection

While the artists of the De Stijl Group, founded in 1917, soon turned to other art movements, Mondrian remained connected to the basic idea of ​​this movement by gradually deepening it. He summarized it - after articles in the magazine De Stijl - for the first time in 1920 in the font Le Néo-Plasticisme : principe général de l'équivalence plastique . The font appeared in Germany in 1925 under the title Neue Gestaltung. Neoplasticism. Nieuwe Beelding . The paintings made in 1916 and 1917 from small horizontal and vertical lines completed the sea theme and the motif of the scaffolding, as in Composition from 1916 or Composition with Lines from 1917. In 1918 and 1919 the first compositions in rhombic format were created, as with lattice composition 3: diamond composition and lattice composition 5: colored diamond composition , the division of the lines became asymmetrical, whereby images such as light colored areas with gray contours , compositions in gray, red, yellow and blue as well as compositions with red, blue and green show a certain timidity the use of strong colors. Mondrian had already painted in the primary colors red, yellow and blue from 1908 to 1911 , abandoning this exclusive color scheme in favor of broken tones such as yellow-green and orange, he returned to them from 1921. They are considered typical of Mondrian to this day.

Primary colors

Composition with red, yellow, blue and black , 1921, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Composition 10 , 1939–1942, private collection

Mondrian linked his pictures to a worldview that was derived from the intellectual currents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially theosophy . Behind the changing appearances of the world around us there is a truer sphere of reality that can be recognized through practice. She is a kind of role model for a good life, a properly designed world. The analogy between image and pure, ideal reality is that there are no “tragic, vain” forms (such as surfaces in front of a background, impure colors, mixed colors), but everything is resolved in the equilibrium shape. The right angle is the "only constant relationship to pure reality" and changing proportions represent life through their movement. The primary colors are the abstraction from the first world that surrounds us and were described by Rudolf Steiner as the shining colors of the spiritual, soul and living, white as the spiritual image of the spirit and black as the spiritual image of the dead.

The primary colors red, yellow and blue as well as the non-colors black, white and gray appear in Mondrian's paintings from around 1921. These are emphasized by vertical black lines and the right-angled colored areas adjacent to them in the relevant primary colors, which are adjacent to the stripes. The remaining spaces are white. Color lines and rectangles are never arranged symmetrically, but rather irregularly rhythmically and dynamically composed. Due to the formal contrasts of the horizontal and vertical black lines as well as the consistently orthogonal picture structure, one colored surface always appears as a contrast to the other colored and non-colored surfaces. Although they are inseparable from the black lines, they are never brought into the background or into the foreground, as the mutual interplay of surfaces and lines on the one hand and the contrasting relationship on the other hand dissolve any spatial and depth effect.

Right angle

Piet Mondrian's “Landscapes” are based, as he still considered himself a landscape painter, only expressed in a pure reality that remains hidden behind the superficial reality, on the natural relationship of the balance between horizontal and vertical. At the right angle , Mondrian recognized a universal symbol, namely the vertical of man standing upright on the horizontal earth. Wherever this polarity appears in our world, it creates tensions that push towards a balance. Man and woman, spirit and matter , Apollonian and Dionysian are polarities, which in the occult sense become the form of the cross again and, according to Diether Rudloff , “underlies everything Christian, everything human.” Mondrian wrote: “Since the male principle is in expresses the vertical line, a man will recognize this element in the rising trees of a forest. He will see his complement in the horizontal line of the sea. - The woman is more likely to recognize herself in the stretched out line of the sea and see her complement in the vertical lines of the forest, which embody the male principle. ”His pictures thus consist of simple colored areas in squares and rectangles, with an extreme simplification and reduction the world that can be experienced through the senses takes place and a balance between the individual and the universal should be created, as Piet Mondrian wrote in the first manifesto of the de Stijl movement in 1918.

Late work in New York

Broadway Boogie Woogie , 1942/43, Museum of Modern Art , New York
New York City I , 1942, Musee National d'Art Moderne , Paris
Victory Boogie Woogie , 1942–1944 (unfinished), Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Mondrian combined the black lines of the 17 pictures brought with him from Europe from the years 1935 to 1940 such as Place de la Concorde (1938–1943) - they are known as transatlantic pictures - with colored lines after his arrival in New York in 1940. He loosened the black stripes like in the newly started painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942/43) and the diamond-shaped Victory Boogie Woogie (1942–1944) into the primary colors like a mosaic, which significantly increases the impression of rhythm and movement. This was made possible for him by the American invention of colored adhesive tape in the form of gummed paper strips that enabled him to slide them back and forth in the preparatory sketches until the desired position was reached. One of the surviving sketches with the stripes is New York City I from 1942.

Broadway Boogie Woogie refers in the title to Broadway , an avenue in his new home, Manhattan in New York . The grid of the picture shows the straight-line street scene as if drawn with a ruler. Said also in the title of Boogie-woogie is a piano music from the Jazz arose and jazz friend and enthusiastic dancers had inspired. He left Victory Boogie Woogie unfinished in his studio. The title probably indicates the expected victory of the Allies in World War II as well as Mondrian's overcoming of the earlier strict compositions in favor of the new musical rhythm of the motif.

Mondrian's studios

Piet Mondrian with Nelly van Doesburg in his studio at Rue du Départ No. 26. In: De Stijl , Vol. VI, No. 6/7 (1924)

Mondrian put his theory into concrete terms by arranging his daily living space, the studio , according to his spatial principles. When Mondrian returned to Paris in 1919, he moved back into Kickert's studio at 26 rue du Départ on the first floor. After a few months he had to leave because Kickert had moved back to Paris and first moved into a studio in a rear building on Rue Coulmier before he could return to Rue du Départ in 1921, as a studio in the same house had become vacant. His new studio was on the third floor, accessible via a dark spiral staircase. The visitor entered the studio through a system of curtains, behind which there was a small bedroom, which also served as a kitchen. This consisted of a large, bright and high room, the walls of which were painted white and in places covered by large, red, white and gray cardboard surfaces, and which had an arrangement like that of his pictures. With the help of a large, black-painted cupboard with an unused easel in front of it, Mondrian had divided the room irregularly. A second easel was placed against the back wall of the room. It was painted white and used Mondrian to check the effect of the finished pictures. In front of a window facing the Rue du Départ was a table with a white, nailed-down oilcloth on the underside. There were also two white-painted wicker armchairs in Mondrian's studio, and a red and a gray carpet lay on the floor.

Mondrian's studio at 26 rue du Départ
Reconstruction 2010/11
Center Pompidou, Paris

Link to the picture
(please note copyrights )

The microcosm of the studio was an experience for the artist's visitors . In 1930, Alexander Calder visited Piet Mondrian in his studio, which impressed him so much with its colored geometric shapes that he changed his figurative style and began to create the mobiles . Well-known contemporary photographers such as André Kertész , Rogi André and Florence Henri photographed it, and their pictures have been published in art magazines around the world. In the Mondrian / De Stijl exhibition at the turn of the year 2010/11, the Center Pompidou showed a reconstruction of the studio in the Rue du Départ. From October 2012 to February 2013, it was present in the exhibition “Mythos Atelier” in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, along with other studios that, for example, form the subject of paintings by Giacometti, Matisse and Picasso, and in 2014 for the 70th year of death in the Tate Liverpool .

During the three years and four months that Mondrian lived in New York, he found accommodation in two apartments. The first was on 56th Street at 535 East at the corner of First Avenue; the second was at 59th Street at 15 East. This second apartment was on the fourth floor and consisted of a kitchen and two rooms, one of which Mondrian used as a studio, the second served as a bedroom. In the almost empty studio there was an easel and two wooden slatted frames, one of which served as a shelf for the pallets and the other for storing the paint. Squares in pure colors were distributed on the white painted walls (called wallwork ), the composition of which was reminiscent of works from 1917/18. His last studio has also been shown several times at exhibitions; it was an installation in 2007 as part of the exhibition Raum. Places of art can be seen in the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.


Piet Mondrian: Le Néo-Plasticisme , 1920

Mondrian's main written art-theoretical work on the style of neo-plasticism is Le Néo-Plasticisme , published in 1920 and published by L'Effort Moderne by Léonce Rosenberg. In 1925 it appeared as a translation in the Bauhaus books edited by Walter Gropius as number 5 under the title Neue Gestaltung, Neoplastizismus, Nieuwe Beelding . Apart from Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg from the De Stijl group, Albert Gleizes , Wassily Kandinsky , Paul Klee and Kasimir Malewitsch , among others, were involved in these publications .

In his essay Art and Life from 1931, Mondrian speaks of the fact that the harmony that the artist saw illustrated in the horizontal and vertical of his pictures has not yet reached its ultimate goal of development. This is because “their internal and external balance is constantly being disturbed by characterless and egocentric individualism.” According to Mondrian, this imbalance in life brings a deep tragedy into life, and only art is able to represent this harmony and this balance . According to Mondrian, art is “only a substitute as long as the beauty of life is defective. It will disappear in the same proportion as life receives equilibrium. ”Mondrian anticipates the future in his pictures, in reality the future has yet to achieve this - in the future artistic creation will be replaced by the realization of purely plastic expression in tangible reality . Pictures and sculptures will then no longer be needed, because only then, according to Mondrian, will we live in realized art. In 1937 Ben Nicholson published Mondrian's first essay in English under the title Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art in the publication Circle , of which Nicholson was co-editor.

In 1941, Piet Mondrian wrote the autobiography and prose piece Toward the True Vision of Reality ( Toward the True Vision of Reality ) . Mondrian, who since 1914 assumed that the essence of the world could be better grasped in abstract painting than in a naturalistic representation, describes here, by means of the “true look” that the artist threw his entire life from his studio window, “being in retrospect Life as if he had lived in the studio since his birth ”, a life he had never lived before,“ which he made into a work of art and the imaginary source of his art ”.

Art as religion

For Mondrian, although he was a member of the Theosophical Society until his death , neo-plasticism was a new religion that would ultimately replace traditional religions. It saw him “as a millenarian religious project to transform all society. He believed [...] that neo-plasticism would ultimately destroy the old forms of state, religion and family and create new, simpler and better forms. ”(“ Mondrian saw Neo-Plasticism as millenarian religious project for transforming the whole of society. He believed that Neo-Plasticism would end up destroying the old forms of state, religion and family and creating new, simpler and better ones. ")


Mondrian's Influence on the Arts

Barbara Hepworth dedicated her painted bronze sculpture Construction (Crucifixion) to Mondrian in 1966
: Homage to Mondrian , it stands near Winchester Cathedral .

Contemporary artists inspired by Mondrian included the painters or sculptors Josef Albers , Alexander Calder , Burgoyne Diller , Theo van Doesburg , Fritz Glarner , Harry Holtzman , Ben Nicholson , Charmion von Wiegand , who edited his texts written in the United States, and the Architect Alfred Roth . The Bauhaus master Oskar Schlemmer , painter, sculptor and set designer, described him as the "real god of the Bauhaus". The Minimal Art of the 1960s with representatives such as Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella also indicates influences from Mondrian and Malevich.

The light installation greens crossing greens (to Piet Mondrian who lacked green) by Dan Flavin from 1966 is dedicated to Mondrian, who avoided not only green , but also the other complementary colors purple and orange . Flavin's work is on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Barnett Newman created four paintings between 1966 and 1970 entitled Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue . An example of an artist from the 1990s is Imi Knoebel , whose four-part installation from 1997, RED GELB WEISS BLAU 1–4 , is in the event foyer of the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus of the German Bundestag . In the same year, Thomas Hirschhorn's installation Mondrian Altar was created , which was rebuilt in 2011 on the occasion of an exhibition in memory of September 11, 2001 by the Museum of Modern Art in a street on Long Island , New York. Between 2001 and 2003, British artist Keith Milow created a number of paintings that can be traced back to Mondrian's late style.

An opponent of abstract art and Mondrian's in particular was the Austrian painter and sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka . From 1966 he created an etching cycle with the title Roll over Mondrian . In it he adopted the ideally conceived order pattern and filled the rectangular fields in black and white that provoked him with their "emptiness" with his topics about sex, sadism and violence. One example is the Good Friday sheet . In his literary treatise The Last Draftsman: Essays on Art and Caricature from 1999, the poet, draftsman and satirist Robert Gernhardt thinks that no artist of this century has failed so exemplarily with such resounding success as "this Dutchman", since his visual language is omnipresent by the adapted to current popular culture.

With the Dutch composer Jakob van Domselaer (1890–1960) Mondrian had numerous conversations since 1912 about the future of music in Paris. In 1916 Mondrian lived with van Domselaer in Laren ; In the same year he published a series of seven piano pieces under the title Proeven van Stijlkunst , which were inspired by pictures by his painter friend. In the execution, the static element, the harmony, should be treated as the main thing, and the movement, the melody, should remain calm and informal despite the predominance of the static element. From the mid-1950s onwards, the Swiss composer Hermann Meier worked with large, colorful plans that he called "Mondriane".

Mondrian in architecture

Walter Gropius: The workshop building in Dessau

The Dutch artists' association De Stijl inspired the Bauhaus , which was founded in 1919 . The workshop building of the Bauhaus Dessau planned by the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and built in 1925/26 with its design made of steel and glass reflects Mondrian's strict, simple line compositions in his paintings. Gropius became an influential architect and co-founder of the International Style of Architecture.

Mondrian's abstract geometric style also inspired the design and naming of contemporary buildings. The Mondrian building was erected in 2002 in Vancouver , Canada. It consists of two tall towers containing 21 and 30 stories. Among other things, the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery is located here. In 2005, the 20-story high-rise "The Mondrian" in Cityplace near Oak Lawn in Texas was completed. This was followed in 2011 in Victoria in British Columbia , Canada, by a 10-storey high-rise that features Mondrian motifs and is also called “The Mondrian”, as does the building complex in Nuremberg that was built this year .

Mondrian's influence on fashion and consumption

Mondrian dresses by Yves Saint Laurent, 1966

In 1933, designer Lola Prusac designed handbags for Hermès that took up Mondrian's motifs. The French couturier Yves Saint Laurent created Mondrian dresses with the geometric motifs of Mondrian from 1965 . They were often imitated. One copy each belongs to the holdings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In 2010 the Museum of Applied Art in Cologne showed the exhibition all-over Mondrian. Art + Consumption , which documented how much Mondrian's work has influenced everyday consumption. One example is a hair care series from the cosmetics company L'Oréal from 1986. The focus of the show was the Mondrian painting Composition with Black, Red and Gray from 1927. The work was juxtaposed with items such as lighters, sportswear, women's shoes and shower trays, which take up the Mondrian style painting in graphic structures and colors. "The confrontation of the work of art with more or less successful adaptations in the world of goods sharpens the eye for what at Mondrian is only apparently simple visual vocabulary," was a statement by the museum.

Mondrian, Malewitsch and Kandinsky

An exhibition initiated by the Fondation Beyeler in 2003 by the curators Christoph Vitali and Markus Brüderlin entitled Mondrian + Malewitsch dealt with a collection presentation of both abstract painters. Both Piet Mondrian and the Russian painter Kasimir Malewitsch , who first exhibited his painting The Black Square in 1915 , were early masters of geometric abstraction . A comparison of the works of both artists, who never met and whose work flows were different, shows that their compositions represent completely different systems. Mondrian's neoplastic style solution was based on the line and structure. Malevich, on the other hand, chose the surface so that in his pictures called Suprematist the individual forms seem to float above the white background. Mondrian, on the other hand, spans all parts of the picture in a dynamic grid of vertical and horizontal lines. The lattice structure and the equilibrium within the composition create the effect that no image element is represented as a single form and all parts appear to be in one plane. The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky , whose style is attributed to expressive abstraction, which is not expressed in geometric shapes, took a different path . However, like Mondrian, he drew his painterly impulses from theosophy . The three artists are seen as pioneers of American Abstract Expressionism , which emerged in the late 1940s .

Mondrian software

Mondrian's mature abstract style inspired the computer specialists. The esoteric programming language Piet is based on Mondrian's paintings and was named after him. There is also software for visualizing statistical data called "Mondrian". The "Mondrimat" offers the playful creation of pictures that can be generated on the computer according to his style.


Gemeentemuseum The Hague

1971 by the architect received Berlage designed Gemeentemuseum Den Haag thanks to the good relations between his former director Louis Wijsenbeek (1912-1985) in his will by the art collector Solomon B. Slijper 124 oil paintings and 75 drawings Mondrian from all periods, but mainly representational of its period. Together with works that were already in the museum's possession as well as those that were added later, such as Mondrian's last, unfinished painting Victory Boogie Woogie in 1998 , on loan from the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Amsterdam, the museum currently owns around 300 works. The Gemeentemuseum has thus become the parent company of Mondrian's work and shows a changing selection of Mondrian's works. All of the major Mondrian exhibitions in recent decades were heavily stocked with loans from the Gemeentemuseum.

Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort

Mondriaanhuis, Amersfoort

Mondrian's birthplace at 11 Kortegracht in Amersfoort has been restored and has been the Mondriaanhuis Museum with library and documentation center since 1994. It contains an exhibition in which visitors can see the development phases of the artist based on some works. Mondrian's Parisian studio from 1921 to 1936 can also be seen as a replica. In addition, special exhibitions from the field of modern art and contemporary art are shown.

Villa Mondriaan in Winterswijk

Villa Mondriaan, Winterswijk

As a child, Mondrian lived in a house in Winterswijk in the east of the Netherlands from 1880 to 1892 . His father was a teacher at a school next door. Here the young Piet learned to draw and paint under the guidance of his father and uncle. Since May 2013 the house has housed a museum for Mondrian's “Winterswijker Zeit”. Mondrian's drawings and paintings show the influences of the contemporary Hague School, for example . You can also see works by relatives of Mondrian and by modern artists who have dealt with Mondrian. The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague supports Villa Mondriaan with numerous loans.

Mondriaan monument

Mondriaan monument

The Mondriaan monument , also called Always Boogie Woogie , is a monument dedicated to Piet Mondrian in Winterswijk. The plastic monument, erected in 2006, is 3.5 m high and 4 m wide. On one side it shows the artist sitting horizontally on a chair in front of a surface executed in Mondrian style based on the painting Composition in Red and Black from 1936. The reverse, based on a sketch by Mondrian, a view of St. Jacob's Church in Winterswijk , only shows the tree as a motif. The sculpture is made of monochrome white, but is illuminated at night in the colors typical of Mondrian, yellow, blue and red. The work was designed by the Dutch artists Dedden & Keizer (Albert Dedden and Paul Keizer) from Deventer .

Mondrian on the art market

Composition No. III, with red, blue, yellow and black , 1929

The highest price to date for a Mondrian work was paid in May 2015 at Christie's auction house in New York when the painting Composition No. III, with red, blue, yellow and black for $ 50.6 million (about 45 million euros) changed hands. Previously, the painting Victory Boogie Woogie topped the list of the most expensive Mondrian works at 37.2 million euros.

After the death of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who was also an art collector, the Christie’s auction house in the Grand Palais , Paris, auctioned the Yves Saint Laurent collection and his friend Pierre Bergé in February 2009 , including three abstract works by Mondrian. The painting Composition avec bleu, rouge, jaune et noir (composition with blue, red, yellow and black) from 1922 was auctioned for 21.5 million euros. At the time, this was the highest price paid for a Mondrian at auction . Composition avec grille 2 from 1918 brought in 14.4 million euros and Composition I from 1920 brought in 7 million euros. To mark the 50th anniversary of Yves Saint Laurent's store opening in 2011, a Mondrian-style dress was auctioned for £ 30,000 at Christie's in London.


  • 1906: Willink van Collen Prize, Amsterdam

Exhibitions (selection)

Selected Works

Watercolors, charcoal and chalk pictures

Passion Flower , 1901–1908
  • around 1896/97: A girl with a hood writing , black chalk on paper, 57 × 44.5 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1901–1908: Passion flower , watercolor on paper, 72.5 × 47.5 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1914: Scaffolding: Study for Tableau III , charcoal on paper, 152.5 × 100 cm, Peggy Guggenheim Collection , Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation , New York
  • 1942: Self-portrait after a photo , charcoal on paper, 28 × 23.2 cm, Sidney Janis Collection, New York

Gouaches and oil paintings

Devotion , 1908
View from the dunes near Domburg , 1909
Composition IX / Blue Facade , 1913/14
Tableau I , 1921
  • 1899: On the Lappenbrink , gouache, 128 × 99 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 1900: Self-portrait , oil on canvas, mounted on fibreboard, 55 × 39 cm, The Philipps Collection, Washington, DC
  • around 1906: Landscape with a mill. National Gallery , Athens
  • 1908: Devotion , oil on canvas, 94 × 62 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 1908: Mill in the Sunlight: The Winkeler Mill , oil on canvas, 114 × 87 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1908: The Red Tree , Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1908: Forest near Oele, oil on canvas, 128 × 158 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1909: View from the dunes near Domburg , oil on canvas, 28.5 × 38.5 cm, Museum of Modern Art , New York
  • 1911: The Gray Tree , oil on canvas, 79.7 × 109.1 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 1912: Portrait of a Lady , oil on canvas, 115 × 88 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 1913: Composition in Oval , Stedelijk Museum , Amsterdam
  • 1913/14: Composition IX / Blue Facade , oil on canvas, 95.2 × 67.6 cm, Fondation Beyeler , Basel
  • 1914: Tableau III: Oval Composition , oil on canvas, 140 × 101 cm, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • 1917: Composition in color A , oil on canvas, 50.3 × 45.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum , Otterloo
  • 1918: Lattice composition 3: spatial composition , oil on canvas, diagonal 121 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1919: Lattice composition 5: colored diamond composition , oil on canvas, diagonal 84.5 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1919: Grid Composition 7 , oil on canvas, 48.5 × 48.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel , Basel
  • 1920: Composition B , oil on canvas, 67 × 57.5 cm, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum , Ludwigshafen
  • 1921: Tableau I, with black, red, yellow, blue and light blue , oil on canvas, 103 × 100 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 1922: Tableau 2 with yellow, black, blue, red and gray , oil on canvas, 55.6 × 53.4 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum , New York
  • 1928: Composition with red, black, blue and yellow , Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, oil on canvas, 45 × 45 cm
  • 1930: Composition II with black lines , oil on canvas, 50.5 × 50.5 cm, Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum , Eindhoven
  • 1933: Room composition with four yellow lines , oil on canvas, diagonal 112 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1936: Composition in white, red and blue , oil on canvas, 98.5 × 80.3 cm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart , Stuttgart
  • 1937: Composition with lines and color: III , oil on canvas, 80 × 77 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
  • 1937–1942: Composition No. 9 with yellow and red , oil on canvas, 79.7 × 74 cm, The Philipps Collection, Washington, DC
  • 1941/42: New York, 1941 / Boogie Woogie , oil on canvas, 95.2 × 92 cm, Hester Diamond Collection, New York
  • 1941: New York City 1 (unfinished), oil and painted paper strips on canvas, 119 × 115 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen , Düsseldorf
  • 1942/43: Broadway Boogie Woogie , oil on canvas, 127 × 127 cm, Museum of Modern Art , New York
  • 1942/44: Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished), oil on canvas, 127 × 127 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague


  • Natural and abstract reality. An essay in dialogue form . 1919/1920, in: Michel Seuphor : Piet Mondrian. Life and work . DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1957, pp. 303–351
  • New design. Neoplasticism. Nieuwe Beelding , 1925. New edition Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-7861-1472-2
  • Plastic art and pure plastic art, 1937, and other essays, 1941-1943 . Wittenborn and Co., New York 1945, including the partly autobiographical text Toward the true vision of reality . New edition Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art , Wittenborn Art Books, San Francisco 2008, ISBN 0-8150-0101-0
  • The New Art - the New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian , edited and translated by Harry Holtzman and Martin S. James. GK Hall, Boston 1986. New edition, Da Capo Press, New York 1993, ISBN 0-306-80508-1




  • Carel Blootkamp: Mondrian. The Art of Destruction . Reaction Books, London 2004, ISBN 978-1-86189-100-6
  • Harry Cooper, Ron Spronk: Mondrian. The Transatlantic Painting. Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge (Mass.) 2001, ISBN 0-300-08928-7
  • Susanne Deicher: Mondrian. 1872-1944. Construction above the void. Taschen, Cologne 2011, ISBN 3-8228-0928-4
  • Britta Grigull: Piet Mondrian. Cubist work in a new light. Ludwig, Kiel 2005, ISBN 3-937719-11-3 (partly online)
  • Hans Janssen: Piet Mondrian. Prestel, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7913-3361-5
  • Hans Locher: Piet Mondrian. Color, structure and symbolism. Gachnang & Springer, Bern-Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-906127-40-0
  • Frans Postma, Cees Boekraad (Ed.): 26, Rue du Départ. Mondrian's studio in Paris, 1921–1936 . Translated from Dutch into English by Michael Gibbs and Dawn Mastin. Ernst and Son, Berlin 1995
  • Diether Rudloff : Unfinished Creation. Artist in the twentieth century . Urachhaus , Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-87838-368-1
  • Michel Seuphor : Piet Mondrian. Life and work . DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1957
  • Clara Weyergraf: Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Fink, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-7705-1729-6
  • Charmion von Wiegand : The Meaning of Mondrian . In: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism , Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics, Vol. 2, Issue 8, Fall 1943, pp. 62–70 (partly online) (English)


  • Daniel Hess : Broadway Boogie-Woogie , Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Music to Piet Mondrian's painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1944). 2002.


  • The only known film sequence (30 sec.) That Piet Mondrian shows was discovered during research on Victory Boogie Woogie and published in August 2008. The sequence shows Mondrian looking at his painting Broadway Boogie Woogie in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The work had reached MoMA during his lifetime in 1943 via the Valentine Dudensing Gallery. The founder is unknown.
  • Piet Mondrian - In Mondrian's studio. A film by François Lévy-Kuentz on DVD, running time 52 minutes. Absolut Medien GmbH, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-89848-473-2 .

Web links

Commons : Piet Mondrian  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  1. Piet Mondrian: Kind , 1900-1901, oil on canvas, 53 cm × 44 cm, Gemeentemuseum , The Hague.
  2. Piet Mondrian: Composition No. IV ( Memento from October 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), 1914, oil on canvas, 95.2 cm × 67.6 cm, Fondation Beyeler , Riehen near Basel, (third image above).
  3. ^ Piet Mondrian: Composition , 1916, oil on canvas, 119 cm × 75.1 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum , New York.
  4. ^ Piet Mondrian: Lattice Composition 3: Rautenkomposition ( Memento from November 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), 1918, oil on canvas, diagonal 121 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.
  5. Piet Mondrian: Lattice Composition 5: colored diamond composition ( Memento from November 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), 1919, oil on canvas, diagonal 84.5 cm, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on March 23, 2012 in this version .