Modernism: Piet Mondrian

Born on March 7, 1872 was a Dutch painter who became an important contributor to the neoplasticism art movement.  His name is Piet Mondrian.

Mondrian was born the second child in Amersfoort , The Netherlands. His family then moved to Winterswijk when his father, Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan, was appointed head teacher at a local primary  school.

Mondrian was introduced to art from a very early age, his father was a qualified art teacher, and with his uncle the younger Piet often painted and drew along the river Gein.

He entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam, by then he was already qualified as a teacher. He then began his career as a Primary school teacher, but while teaching he also practiced painting. Most of his work from this period is naturalistic or impressionistic, and made up of mostly landscapes. These idealized images of his home country depict windmills, fields, and rivers  in a variety of styles and techniques, continuing his search for a personal style. These paintings are most definitely representational, and illustrate the influence that various artistic movements had on Mondrian, including pointillism and the vivid colors of fauvism.

After the war ended in 1918, Mondrian went to France, where he would remain until 1938. Submerged in the severe artistic innovation that was post-war Paris, he flourished in an atmosphere of intellectual freedom that allowed him to embrace an art of pure abstraction for the rest of his life. By this time his work was fully non-representational, and any abstracting he’d done from nature was now in the past.

He began to create all of his paintings using a grid-like format, painting squares and rectangles of mostly solid colours. The style for which he came to be renowned had now appeared.

I believe Piet’ Mondrian’s work is a good example of the development of Modernism, mainly the 1930–1945 timeline.

They’re sleek, simplistic and stylish. It isn’t overly done, it’s just plain and simple yet eye-catching. It’s with the 1930’s view  of what Modernism is; which of that time was the idea of clear,  easily recognizable and memorable visual symbols. With they’re flat, poster look and thick black outlines around coloured blocks over empty white backgrounds gives quite a striking look and definitely a recognizable one. And being part of popular culture, they’re also memorable ones.

Mondrian’s most famous works are his paintings made up of pure red, yellow, and blue, as well as black and white, but for a while he used shades of gray as well, and even his lines were dark gray instead of pure black. At the beginning of this new style of his he wasn’t as neat, and the paintings where crowded with rectangles and squares. He began to shift away from neutral and intermediate colors to primary hues, especially avoiding green.

Over time his work became cleaner and more simplistic. The quality of colour seems a lot better too.  Strong fields of colour dominated his paintings, separated by thick black lines and sections of pure white. Then eventually the white became the focus, along with a good use of distinct Primary colours and the same black lines to break up the space.

Mondrian then began experimenting with double and triple lines, criss-crossing and with more black than used before. This experimentation eventually led to a major adjustment on his part, He painted smaller squares of colour in-between a couple of double lines, without any black borders around them. Although it might not seem like such a big change to us but for Piet  unbounded colour was a serious departure, indicating a big change of direction for him.

All those baby steps of “boundless colour” all lead up to this piece entitled “Broadway Boogie Woogie”. Not one black outline, just free blocks of pure colour with nothing surrounding them other than more colour.

“Broadway Boogie Woogie” is Piet Mondrian’s final piece. It reflected not only the bustling sights and sounds of New York City, but also one last leap forward in his evolution as an artist.

It would have been interesting to see Mondrian’s style continue to evolve, especially since he’d just made such a big stylistic change—but unfortunately he died shortly after completing Broadway Boogie Woogie, in 1944. (




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