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Piet Mondrian

There is no God — only Truth

"Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life’. I recognized that the equilibrium of any particular aspect of nature rests on the equivalence of its opposites."

Mondrian was born in Amersfoort in the Netherlands, the second of his parents' children. He was descended from Christian Dirkzoon Monderyan who lived in The Hague as early as 1670. The family moved to Winterswijk in the east of the country, when his father, Pieter Cornelius Mondrian, was appointed Head Teacher at a local primary school. Mondrian was introduced to art from a very early age: his father was a qualified drawing teacher; and, with his uncle, Fritz Mondriaan (a pupil of Willem Maris of the Hague School of artists), the younger Piet often painted and drew along the river Gein.

After a strictly Protestant upbringing, in 1892, Mondrian entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam. He already was qualified as a teacher. He began his career as a teacher in primary education, but he also practiced painting. Most of his work from this period is naturalistic or Impressionistic, consisting largely of landscapes. These pastoral images of his native country depict windmills, fields, and rivers, initially in the Dutch Impressionist manner of the Hague School and then in a variety of styles and techniques documenting his search for a personal style. These paintings are most definitely representational, illustrating the influence various artistic movements had on Mondrian, including pointillismand the vivid colors of Fauvism. On display in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague are a number of paintings from this period, including such Post-Impressionist works as The Red Mill and Trees in Moonrise. Another painting, Evening (Avond) (1908), depicting a tree in a field at dusk, even augurs future developments by using a palette consisting almost entirely of red, yellow, and blue. Although it is in no sense Abstract, Avond is the earliest of Mondrian's works to emphasize the primary colors.

The Beginnings of Abstraction

The earliest paintings that show an inkling of the abstraction to come are a series of canvases from 1905 to 1908, which depict dim scenes of indistinct trees and houses with reflections in still water. Although the result leads the viewer to begin emphasizing the forms over the content, these paintings are still firmly rooted in nature; and it is only the knowledge of Mondrian's later achievements that leads one to search for the roots of his future abstraction in these works.

Mondrian's art always was intimately related to his spiritual and philosophical studies. In 1908, he became interested in the theosophical movement launched by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the late 19th century; and, in 1909, he joined the Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society. The work of Blavatsky and a parallel spiritual movement, Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy, significantly affected the further development of his aesthetic. Blavatsky believed that it was possible to attain a more profound knowledge of nature than that provided by empirical means, and much of Mondrian's work for the rest of his life was inspired by his search for that spiritual knowledge.

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Village Church

Village Church

1898
Night Landscape

Night Landscape

1907-1908
Woods Near Oele

Woods Near Oele

1908
Molen Mill in Sunlight

Molen Mill in Sunlight

1908
Dune 2

Dune 2

1909
Dune 3

Dune 3

1909
Dune 1

Dune 1

1909
The Red Tree

The Red Tree

1908-1910
Gray Tree

Gray Tree

1911
Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

1912
Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

1912
Female Figure

Female Figure

1911-1912
Nude

Nude

1911-1912
Composition in Grey Blue

Composition in Grey Blue

1912-1913
Composition No. 3

Composition No. 3

1912-1913
Composition in Blue Gray and Pink

Composition in Blue Gray and Pink

1913
Composition No. 9

Composition No. 9

1913-1914
Oval Composition with Light Colors

Oval Composition with Light Colors

1913-1914
Composition No. 6

Composition No. 6

1914
Pier and Ocean

Pier and Ocean

1914
Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

1915
Farm near Duivendrecht

Farm near Duivendrecht

1916
Composition with Lines (Composition in Black and White)

Composition with Lines (Composition in Black and White)

1917
Composition with Colours A

Composition with Colours A

1917
Composition with Colours B

Composition with Colours B

1917
Composition in Black and Gray

Composition in Black and Gray

1919
Lozenge

Lozenge

1921
Composition with Blue and Yellow (Composition 1)

Composition with Blue and Yellow (Composition 1)

1925
Composition in Black and White (Painting 1)

Composition in Black and White (Painting 1)

1926
Composition with Red Yellow and Blue

Composition with Red Yellow and Blue

1927
Composition with Red Yellow and Blue

Composition with Red Yellow and Blue

1928
Broadway Boogie Woogie

Broadway Boogie Woogie

1942-1943
Victory Boogie Woogie

Victory Boogie Woogie

1943-1944
The New Art — The New Life

The New Art — The New Life

Great minds don't always think alike

1993

The artists of Early Modernism

The artists of De Stijl