Piet Mondrian’s Abstract Art

Piet Mondrian was an influential Dutch Abstract painter of the first half of the 20th Century.

When standing in front of one of Mondrian’s later artwork of the 1920s, you might think that his work is derived from a strict ordering of geometric shapes & lines and a scientific balance of colors. Instead, what is illustrated is the harmonious essence of the world around Mondrian, obtained through sensitive and emotional exploration of his soul.

Piet Mondriaan

In Mondrian’s own words (letter to Bremmer, 1914):

I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things…

I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.

The art of Piet Mondrian moved through many different stages before it landed at his famous ‘Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue’ realization – a abstract painting he did in 1921. The evolution to Mondrian’s famous neo-plastic artwork took about 30 years. His search for ‘essence’ and ‘harmony’ started early, while creating his realistic artworks. Besides portraits, windmills and flowers, he first painted mainly country landscapes. His abstraction starts to show for instance in his riverscapes when he realizes symmetrical harmony with river bank reflections in the water. His earlier representational paintings prove the influence of various art movements on Mondrian, including fauvism, pointillism and cubism.

There are 5 distinct stages of this work, which could be named as
1. Naturalism. 1895-1905 – country landscapes with windmills, portraits & flowers.
2. Evening landscapes, 1906-1907.
3. Luminism- modernist, 1908-1911.
4. Cubism, 1912-1916.
5. Neo-plasticism or ‘de Stijl’ -period, 1917 – 1944.
An artwork called ‘De Avond’ (translated ‘the Evening’) painted in 1908 shows his turning point towards color purification.

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Piet Mondrian

Mondrian’s artwork symbolizes a highlight of abstract art of the ’20s in a more general sense. Both an art movement and an art magazine maintained by Mondrian’s contemporary painter Theo van Doesburg, ‘de Stijl’ was idealistic and aimed to convey spiritual harmony and order. Besides ‘Mondrian, other contributors to De Stijl included the painter van der Leck, and architect – furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld.

Mondrian was born in Amersfoort, the Netherlands in 1872. His father, a school teacher, taught Mondrian to draw at a young age. Mondrian used art to escape reality, immersing himself in the world of his own imagination.

Piet Mondrian Abstract
Tableau I
Piet Mondrian

Over the years partly driven by his need for artistic development and partly influenced by the WWI and WWII, Mondriaan moved back and forth from the city to the countryside and from the Netherlands, to Paris, France. He subsequently to London. His final destination was New York City, where he passed away in 1944. His work lives on, as vibrant as ever.

You can find the best of Mondrian’s artwork mostly in museums in the Netherlands and New York City, but really at locations around the world:

  • The City Museum of The Hague, Netherlands, holds the largest collection.
  • Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, the Netherlands, holds some of his best compositions
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York City
  • Guggenheim’s Mondriaan collection
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mr and Mrs William Preston Harrison Collection., Los Angeles, CA
  • Kunstmuseum Basel, Emanuel Hoffman Bequest, Basel, Switzerland, holds interesting compositions
  • Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy


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