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Piet Mondrian’s Lines and Colors

Piet
Mondrian. What does this name tell you? You might know about his signature
geometrical structures; you might have seen famous

Yves Saint Laurent dresses from
the 60s with his prints; or you might remember the simplified, yet memorable
color pattern.

 But what was about this Dutch painter that made him so recognizable
and appreciated in the art scene of the 20th century? Let’s find out
how to look at his art and philosophy.

He started
out as a representative painter

Just as
many other artists such as Malevitch, Picasso and Duchamp, Piet Mondrian started
from the conventional style. His father was an accredited drawing teacher along
with his uncle, so Mondrian had shown interest in art since a very young age,
making sketches and painting beside the riverside in his hometown Amersfoort.

He
experimented with Impressionism, Fauvism (as we see the vivid coloring scheme
in The Red Tree), and later Cubism.

Spiritual pursuit

Piet
Mondrian was highly influenced by the theosophical movement, initiated by Helena
Blavatsky.

Theosophical
Society believed in the search of the profound knowledge about nature through
the spiritual search other than through traditional observation and
experimentation. And that’s precisely what Mondrian was after – the alternative
view on nature and philosophical approach to the search of this view.

De Stijl
(The Style)

After
studying in Amsterdam, Mondrian went to the “capital of art” – Paris to try his
hand in the center of avant-garde. In 1914 he was visiting his home in The Netherlands,
but the outburst of World War I forced him to stay in the country. That’s when
he met  Bart van der Leck and Theo van
Doesburg, that were on their way to the non-representative paintings also. With
the latter, they founded the journal De Stijl which contributed to the Dutch
art movement of the same name.

Neoplasticism

He
developed his own philosophical ground to his oeuvre that was published in their
journal.

“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…”

His paintings
are not flat, if you look closer. The boldest detail of them is the black
lines. Each colored rectangle made with the visible brushstrokes pointed in one
direction. In white background the viewers can also notice the brush work, but
now it is the mixture of strokes in different directions. This technique brings
depth into his paintings; they are not flat, but dimensional.

Wall works

In order to
grasp the process of creation of Mondrian’s works, it is essential to note his
wall works. In every studio he occupied, Mondrian would have posters of
different colors arranged on the walls. What first was cheap decorative
decision became the source of inspiration. Mondrian would reassemble the wall
pieces and his works took the new turn. His wall works were made into an
exhibition a number of times and really show the dynamics of his oeuvre.
Speaking about dynamics and rhythm, they were quite essential for Piet
Mondrian, who fancied jazz throughout his whole life.

Search for
peace

Another side
of Mondrian’s oeuvre was a search for harmony and peacefulness. Being a witness
to the horrible events of the first two World Wars, he tried to create works
filled with nothing that would harm people, nothing that would disturb them.

Late works

Mondrian’s
late works are hard to classify due to his numerous relocations. With the Second
World War outburst, he moved from Paris to London. After France was occupied,
artist had decided to flee to The United States. During this period he
postponed many of his paintings, so he started in one place, continued in another,
and finished them in the third one. After moving to America his style was
evolving, and we were about to see the new step in Mondrian’s oeuvre. His late
works are more complex and are inspired by the real places and things (for
instance boogie woogie music, or Manhattan). Unfortunately, we could not see the
full blossoming of his new art. Mondrian passed away in 1944 at the age
of 72.

His works
are the source of inspiration for many generations and we still hooked on the
simple colors, geometrical forms and musical rhythm of his paintings. Piet
Mondrian had done something quite simple, with complicated philosophical
background and brilliant freshness. Something that seems simple, yet iconic and unconventional.

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