"Art is not made for anybody and is, at the same time, for everybody"

Happy Birthday, Piet Mondrian!

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Piet Mondrian (March 7th, 1872 – February 1, 1944) was a Dutch painter. He is best known for his linear grid paintings consisting of black lines, white spaces and colored blocks. Mondrian termed his work "Neo-Plasticism" after spending years exploring still life, impressionism and abstract, non-representational images. He mainly used the colors red, yellow and blue. Throughout the course of his life, Mondrian lived in the Netherlands, Paris, London and New York. His paintings hang in museums around the world today.

PietMondrian1-Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondrian was born on March 7th, 1872 in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. His father Pieter Cornelius Mondrian was the head teacher at a nearby school and also taught drawing. Young Piet would sit by the river Gein with his uncle Fritz and they would paint together. Mondrian drew inspiration from the pastoral scenes of his country, such as the fields, rivers and windmills. Mondrian attended Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam in 1892.

Mondrian began working as a school teacher of primary education, while practicing painting in his spare time. His early work fits mostly into the category of impressionism or naturalism as it mostly featured the landscapes that Mondrian grew up remembering. Mondrian was also inspired by Pointillism and the colors of Fauvism. While most of his work at this stage was representational of the real world, he had already begun using the primary colors of red, blue and yellow.

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Avond (Evening): The Red Tree, 1908

Mondrian's work between 1905 to 1908 still depicted nature, yet began to express hints of the abstract. Shapes of houses in water reflections and out of focus trees began to surface. Mondrian started to study the theosophical movement and thought a lot about the spiritual and invisible elements of life. His search for higher spiritual answers would dominate his search for a style of art that represented more than the eye could see.

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View from the Dunes with Beach and Piers, Domburg, 1909

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The Gray Tree, 1911

In 1911, Mondrian went to the Moderne Kunstkring exhibition of Cubism in Amsterdam. He was struck by the simplicity of the form and would be inspired to explore it himself. His painting Still Life with Ginger Pot (Stilleven met Gemberpot) was an attempt at Cubism but his reworking of it the following year would reduce the image to simple shapes. Later that year, Mondrian relocated to Paris. The Cubist style of Picasso and Georges Braque could be seen in his own work. While Mondrian did not identify himself as a Cubism painter, he enjoyed studying it on a quest for an even simpler artistic expression.

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Eucalyptus, 1912

While Mondrian was back in the Netherlands in 1914, World War I began. As he was forced to remain in his home country for the duration of the war, he decided to stay at the Laren artist's colony. There, he met painters Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian was interested in Van der Leck's use of simple colors. Mondrian and Van Doesburg founded the art journal De Stijl (The Style) during this time, and this gave Mondrian an outlet to write about his artistic theories. He wrote about his definitions of "Neo-Plasticism" over twelve installments during the next few years.

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Composition No. VI, Compositie 9 (Blue Façade), 1914

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Composition with Gray and Light Brown, 1918

When Mondrian returned to Paris after the war in 1918, he concentrated only on freedom of expression and pure abstraction. Mondrian's earliest grid-based art pieces began in this time period. His early imaginings of this style featured gray lines, many colored squares and an emphasis on the center of the canvas. In 1921, his definitive style became solidified and identifiable. As the years went on, Mondrian's grids started to feature more white squares, less colored squares and thicker black lines.

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Tableau No. I, 1921/1925

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Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1939-42

Mondrian left the advancing fascism of France in 1938 and instead moved to London. Mondrian began drawing many paintings here before taking them to Manhattan in 1944. In the early 1940s, Mondrian's grid pieces featured highly precise lines and sometimes colored tape that could be moved across the painting. His work was inspired by his love of music and by the flair of New York City. Mondrian adored his studio on 59th street and claimed it was the best space he had ever had.

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Picture No. III, 1938

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Composition No. III Blanc-Jaune, 1935-42

Piet Mondrian died of pneumonia in Manhattan, 1944. A series of his artwork known as "The Wall Works" has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the The Carpenter + Hochman Gallery, Galerie Tokoro in Tokyo, Japan, the XXII Biennial of Sao Paulo and the Akademie der Künste (Academy of The Arts) in Berlin. Mondrian's childhood home in the Netherlands is now a museum and his work remains highly relevant, inspiring and educational to art students today.

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Composition No. 10, 1939-42

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Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 07 March 2014
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