Childhood in Winterswijk
Pieter Cornelis Mondrian is born in Amersfoort on 7 March 1872. He bears the same name as his father, a headmaster with a passion for drawing and painting. In 1880 the family moves to Winterswijk, where the artistic talent of the young Mondrian soon becomes evident. During the summer the family is visited by uncle Frits Mondrian, who was taught by Hague School painter Willem Maris. The young Mondrian receives his first introduction to painting. Education Act
When Mondrian announces that he wants to be an artist his father suggests that he must first obtain a teaching certificate. After the necessary self-study, Mondrian obtains the lower teaching certificate in 1889 and the secondary teaching certificate in 1892.
Immediately thereafter, he enrols as a student at the National Academy in Amsterdam. At the age of twenty he leaves for the academy, where the curriculum includes copying old masters, drawing and art theory. For the first two years of his study, Mondrian receives a scholarship from the Royal Family.
In 1895 he completes his education and is especially skilled in still life. Search for a style
From then on, he must finance himself: he gives drawing and painting classes, creates illustrations for scientific books and copies masterpieces on commission.
From 1897, he participates in group exhibitions of the artists' associations Arti et Amicitae
and St. Lucas
. He meets fellow artists here, finds an audience and thus potential customers for his work. He retreats into nature to paint, with or without his good friend Simon Maris. Experiments
A difference begins to emerge between the work that he creates for a potential buyer audience and that in which he experiments with his own ideas about art. In 1904, he moves in with his good friend Albert van den Briel who lives in the town of Uden in Brabant. During this period of seclusion, he paints farms, interiors and even barn doors.
He reduces his design language and makes particular use of browns and greens.
He mainly looks for the relationships between the architectural lines in his subjects. Modern influences
When he returns to Amsterdam in early 1905, he spends most of his time in the areas outside Amsterdam. There he paints a series of farms and trees with mutual subtle differences, in a simplified and atmospheric style.
In 1907, the Amsterdam art world is shaken by Jan Sluijters, who returns from Paris with exuberantly colourful work. Bright colours
Mondrian finds the bright colours interesting, but does not pursue them further. Innovating in his own way, he simplifies the lines in his own work and uses stronger colour contrasts, as in Mill; Mill in Sunlight
(Molen; Molen bij Zonlicht)
(1908) and Evening; The Red Tree
(Avond; De Rode Boom)
(1908-1910). Mondrian does not use colour in the same way as the Expressionists to express an emotion, but rather to capture a viewing experience. The mill, for example, represents the sensation of looking into the sunlight. Modern Art Society
Observation is a crucial aspect of his technique. In 1910, Mondrian joins Conrad Kickert and Jan Sluijters to found the Modern Art Society, an association for progressive artists. From this time on, uncle Frits no longer wishes to be associated with the work of his modern nephew. Cubism follows
During the summers, Mondrian stays in Domburg in Zeeland, where he counts artists such as Jan Toorop, Jacoba van Heemskerck and Marie Tak van Poortvliet among his friends. Here, he imagines himself free of tradition and experiments with his design language and use of colour.
He is constantly in search of the new, for an art that matches the modern world of the future. He paints bright, colourful canvases and explores the cubism of Picasso and Braque from France. Break in style
In 1911, Mondrian paints The Grey Tree (De Grijze Boom)
, a significant break in style. Bright colours have made way for multiple shades of grey, black and white. The direction and the rhythm of the lines have become more important than the recognizable representation of a tree.
During the summer of 1911, Mondrian decides at forty years of age to radically follow this new way: he breaks off his engagement, brings his work among friends and in early 1912 moves to Paris, the capital of modern art.
Here he enjoys moving among the many international artists, writers and thinkers.
In 1913, he dances on with French girls on the street during quatorze juillet
and because of his penchant for visiting gallery openings friends jokingly nickname him “Piet-see-me-not” (“Piet-zie-je-me-niet”). ”Founding of De Stijl"
In the Parisian art world Cubism is rampant. During a solo exhibition at Galerie Walrecht in The Hague in the spring of 1914, Mondrian shows the Dutch public the results of his first years in Paris: the majority of cubism processes from earlier figurative representations. While visiting his sick father in the Netherlands in July, the First World War breaks out. This makes him decide to stay in the Netherlands. He works on a series of drawings and Domburg and starts writing philosophical texts about an art for the future and for the modern world. Bart van der Leck
In Laren, where many artists from the Randstad regularly frequent, he meets Bart van der Leck. He is pleasantly surprised by his geometric design language and focus on primary colours. When Mondrian's work forms part of a group exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum in 1915, the painter, poet, and critic Theo van Doesburg meets him. Van Doesburg also writes a positive critique of Mondrian's work that year. The artists feel a need for a platform to share their ideas about a new art. First edition
Under Van Doesburg's energetic leadership, in 1917 the first edition of the De Stijl
magazine appears, in which artists such as Mondrian and Van der Leck publish articles. Architects, designers, poets and scientists also contribute to the magazine, in which Mondrian functions as a key discussion partner. Disagreement
A disagreement about the application of geometry and primary colours tears Mondrian and Van der Leck apart in 1918, the year in which Van Doesburg reinforces De Stijl with a real manifesto. It calls for the abandonment of individual, natural forms because they symbolize tradition and the past.
Only in this way can artists work towards an art that suits the new era, in which art and life are the same. The manifesto is also signed by architect Jan Wils, sculptor Georges Vantongerloo and poet Antony Kok. “Neoplasticism”
In June 1919, Mondrian returns to Paris, where his imagery becomes more abstract and loses all reference to reality.
He calls it Neoplasticism
. Rather than being interested in depicting (representation) or portraying (conceptualization) objects or landscapes, he tries to capture their underlying, universal essence. Proportions
In his texts, Mondrian writes about how he longer wants to express meaning, but wants to make pure fundamental relationships visible in the world.
In his Paris studio, his paintings hang on white painted walls, to which he also pins coloured pieces of cardboard.
This helps him to explore the relationships between colour and form. This unique studio, which is described as a three-dimensional painting, receives public recognition. Rhythm and movement
He thinks a lot about how painting and architecture could form a whole. After working for a long time towards his iconic abstract imagery, his work shows fewer lines and colours from 1925, until he gradually focuses more on rhythm and movement. Charleston
Mondrian is fond of jazz and the Charleston. He loves to dance, takes it extremely seriously and moves in stylized dance steps. Jazz consists of individual sounds, without having to be overly representative or harmonious.
He sees that it has a relationship with his painting. He not only considers the idea of an open rhythm as ideal for music and art, but also for the new, modern world. The artist can freely improvise within these open structures.
Mondrian therefore consistently strives to express the new in his work. Diamond-shaped paintings
Experiment follows: with diamond-shaped paintings, sparing use of colour and rhythmic black lines, in particular by using the double line. He makes a name for himself in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany and the United States.
A catalogue for the Brooklyn Museum
even states that the Netherlands has produced three great painters: Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Mondrian. Degenerate art
The rise of Nazism in Germany receives international attention, although there is also a downside. In 1937, his art is declareddegenerate
by the German regime.
Mondrian therefore departs for London in 1938, where he creates new paintings. He makes a number of good friends, with whom he starts dancing again.
He has a number of exhibitions, including one in the gallery of Peggy Guggenheim.
But above all, the threat of war weighs heavily. New York
In September 1940, Mondrian decides to flee Europe. He takes a two-week-long sea voyage to New York, of which he spends the most part on deck.
The convoy in which he is travelling survives a bomb attack off the coast of Ireland, and is protected by British fighter planes.
In New York, accommodated by artist Harry Holtzman, he moves into a studio where he begins a new work, but also continues to work on existing paintings. Coloured lines
The black lines make way for a variety of coloured lines, and later blocks. This enables Mondrian to find a way to express the energetic and rhythmic essence of his new love for Boogie Woogie music in addition to his metropolitan environment.
He also likes to dance here, uptown
at Café Society with Lee Krasner and Charmion von Wiegand. First New York exhibition
In 1942, Mondrian holds his first exhibition in New York and in that same year he also participates in the Artists in Exile
exhibition in the gallery of Pierre Matisse. Here he exhibits alongside Ossip Zadkine, Yves Tanguy and Marc Chagall, who have also fled Europe. Broadway Boogie Woogie
In 1943, he completes the painting Broadway Boogie Woogie
, which after being sold by Valentine Dudensing, is gifted by the owner to MoMA. In 1942, he started Victory Boogie Woogie
. Through the use of coloured tapes and the continuous scraping away and reapplication of paint, Mondrian continues to tinker with it. It proves to be a testament to his working method. He rarely starts with a preconceived plan, but on the contrary searches for the right rhythm and proportions while painting.
The painting remains unfinished on the easel when he dies of pneumonia on February 1, 1944.