The KAZoART team is doing a deep dive on beloved Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian! An absolute revolutionary in the world of painting, Mondrian gave his own radical vision of abstraction and had a profound impact on the art world, so much so that his signature style has become a real graphic design in and of itself. But who really was this artistic genius?

Piet Mondrian was…

…One of the Founding Fathers of Abstraction

Portrait of Piet Mondrian

Born in 1872 and died in 1944, Piet Mondrian is well known for his distinctive geometric-style paintings, made up of red, blue and yellow rectangles and broken up by bold black lines.

Above all else, Mondrian is one the first artists to pave the way in the world of abstract art in the early 1910s, along with contemporaries like Kandinsky, Delaunay or Malevitch. He took up abstraction in 1914 after spending some time working with cubism, which he later refined in the subsequent years. 

However as an artist, he chose a rather different attitude to abstraction, than the more lyrical and expressive approach of his contemporary Kandinsky. From 1916 and on, his paintings became more refined and start to stray further and further from nature, thus eliminating curved, wavy lines and the color green. In the end, Mondrian kept only the three primary colors along with his penchant for right angles. 

By the end of his life, his styles changed once more when he lived in New York City and his colors began to seep into the lines themselves. 

… a Spiritual Painter

Son of a preacher, Mondrian grew up in a deeply religious household. Even though he wasn’t a true practitioner as an adult, he became fascinated early on with theosophy, a school of thought that developed throughout the 20th Century.  

Piet Mondrian, Évolution, 1911
Piet Mondrian, Évolution, 1911

The theosophic community that Mondrian belonged to, believed in religious syncretism, therefore the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation of beliefs from unrelated traditions into a religious tradition. They believed in the existence of a superior and all-encompassing truth. Mondrian decided to apply these theories and beliefs to art and the pieces he would produce. 

… a Style Pioneer

Piet Mondrian is the originator of the neoplasticism movement, which was published for the first time in the Dutch magazine De Stijl by artist Théo Van Doesburg. From 1917 and on, De Stijl became an artistic movement based on Mondrian’s artistic theories and his use of pure forms and colors. Many Dutch artists followed in his footsteps and became adepts in this artistic language, such as Gerrit Rietveld or Théo Van Doesburg. 

Thereafter, architects also joined the movement. Mondrian’s distinct lines and color patterns began to appear on furniture or even on buildings. Notably, Gerrit Rietveld created the famous “Red and Blue Chair“ in 1923. This piece appears to be a true to life, three dimensional representation of neoplasticism’s basic principles. 

In 1965, Mondrian’s “style“ is brought into the fashion world thanks to Yves Saint-Laurent who created a collection named “Mondrian dresses“. This model became one of the most iconic pieces of the 1960s! Since then, Mondrian’s works are regularly used in multiple fields from interior design to advertising…

He Once Said…

To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. ”

Piet Mondrian

Did you know?

Snow White themed postcard from Piet Mondrian to his brother, 1938, Tate, Londres

Mondrian had seen Walt Disney’s animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with his brother in Paris, in 1938. Fascinated by the movie and the animation style, he became quite obsessed with its characters. He would regularly send Snow White themed postcards to his brother and attribute the names of the characters to the members of his entourage. Here, the artist, mostly known for being quite introverted, shows his humorous side… Piet would refer to his brother as the infamous “Sneezy“ and would sign all his letters with the name “Sleepy“. 

His Most Famous Pieces

Piet Mondrian, L'arbre argenté, 1911,   Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Piet Mondrian, Gray Tree, 1911, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Piet Mondrian, Composition en rouge, jaune, bleu et noir, 1921, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Piet Mondrian, Composition in red, yellow, blue and black, 1921, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Piet Mondrian, Composition in red, yellow and blue, 1942, Tate Modern, London
Piet Mondria, Broadway Boogie-Woogie, 1942, MoMA New York
Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie-Woogie, 1942, MoMA New York

Artists inspired by Mondrian on KAZoART