The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Piet Mondrian
Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue and others...
Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, after 1906 Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter and art theoretician who is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He is known for being one of the pioneers of 20th-century abstract art, as he changed his artistic direction from figurative painting to an increasingly abstract style, until he reached a point where his artistic vocabulary was reduced to simple geometric elements.
Mondrian’s work had an enormous influence on 20th century art, influencing not only the course of abstract painting and numerous major styles and art movements (e.g. Color Field painting, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism), but also fields outside the domain of painting, such as design, architecture and fashion.
niood lists the 10 Most Famous Artworks of Piet Mondrian:
Mondrian’s interest lay in the abstract quality of line but by 1914 he had all but eliminated the curved line from his work. By 1916 he had suppressed any sense of a subject. Still later he developed a new form of rigorous abstraction called Neo-Plasticism in which he limited himself to straight, horizontal and vertical lines and basic primary colours. Typically his compositions were not symmetrical but could scarcely be purer in their elements. He felt this art reflected a greater, universal truth beyond everyday appearance.
Around 1930 Mondrian’s art attained a highpoint of purity and sobriety, for which the groundwork had been prepared in the paintings of the previous years, the 1929 Composition, for example. Actually, the Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930 is a variation on the picture of the preceding year, at least in so far as the linear framework is concerned. But for that very reason the subtle differences in the work – such as the subdivision of the left strip of the painting into three unequal rectangles, one of which is the blue square – are all the more remarkable. They show that there can never be any question in Mondrian of a preconceived pattern for a composition, but that every work arises out of cautious and painstaking association with the elements of painting, which must be resolved anew in every work.
In 1918 Mondrian created his first “losangique” paintings, such as the later Composition No. 1: Lozenge with Four Lines, by tilting a square canvas 45 degrees. Most of these diamond-shaped works were created in 1925 and 1926 following his break with the De Stijl group over Theo van Doesburg’s introduction of the diagonal. Mondrian felt that in so doing van Doesburg had betrayed the movement’s fundamental principles, thus forfeiting the static immutability achieved through stable verticals and horizontals. Mondrian asserted, however, that his own rotated canvases maintained the desired equilibrium of the grid, while the 45-degree turn allowed for longer lines.
New York City I, or rather the series of works later brought together under the title New York City, marks the beginning of a new phase in Mondrian’s work. The black lines have disappeared along with the rectangles of primary color, which since the 1918 Composition: Color Planes with Gray Contours had formed a solid flat totality with the lines and the white that had previously been the background. Instead, lines in the primary colors – yellow, but also red and blue – traverse the square canvas, interweaving with each other.
For the most part, the yellow lines cross those of the other colors, but here and there, in a most subtle way, the red and blue lines cross the yellow. Yet this style does not give rise to an illusionary space; the colored bands over- and underlap one another on the surface, before the eyes of the viewer. It is quite reasonable to accept Michel Seuphor’s suggestion and attribute this effect of crossing and interlacing to Mondrian’s method of conceiving and working out these pictures: he used strips of colored paper and moved them about on the canvas to get the effect he wanted. In this way, he almost automatically introduced the crossovers and the suggestion of interwoven colored bands.
In the 1920s, Mondrian began to create the definitive abstract paintings for which he is best known. He limited his palette to white, black, gray, and the three primary colors, with the composition constructed from thick, black horizontal and vertical lines that delineated the outlines of the various rectangles of color or reserve. The simplification of the pictorial elements was essential for Mondrian’s creation of a new abstract art, distinct from Cubism and Futurism. The assorted blocks of color and lines of differing width create rhythms that ebb and flow across the surface of the canvas, echoing the varied rhythm of modern life. The composition is asymmetrical, as in all of his mature paintings, with one large dominant block of color, here red, balanced by distribution of the smaller blocks of yellow, blue gray, and white around it. This style has been quoted by many artists and designers in all aspects of culture since the 1920s.
Mondrian’s aesthetic doctrine of Neo-Plasticism restricted the painter to the most basic kinds of line—that is, to straight horizontals and verticals—and to a similarly limited color range, the primary triad of red, yellow, and blue plus white, black, and the grays in between. But Broadway Boogie Woogie omits black and breaks Mondrian’s once uniform bars of color into multicolored segments. Bouncing against each other, these tiny, blinking blocks of color create a vital and pulsing rhythm, an optical vibration that jumps from intersection to intersection like traffic on the streets of New York. At the same time, the picture is carefully calibrated, its colors interspersed with gray and white blocks.
Mondrian’s appreciation of boogie-woogie may have sprung partly from the fact that he saw its goals as analogous to his own: “destruction of melody which is the destruction of natural appearance; and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means— dynamic rhythm.”
Victory Boogie-Woogie, a painting that Mondrian conceived in expectation of victory in World War II and that remained unfinished by reason of his death on February 1, 1944, adds immeasurably to the innovations of his American period. Even in its half-finished state, the painting shows an enormous enrichment over the 1943 drawing containing a first design for the work. It is remarkable to see how Mondrian, already over seventy, was capable of a liveliness, a receptivity to new impressions, a suppleness in dealing with his own approach – all sharply in contradiction to the reputation for dogmatism that surrounded him and that he had himself furthered in the years after 1925, in his dialectic controversy with Theo van Doesburg. Modrian was not doctrinaire in any sense of the term, but he did go constantly further on his own way, and the changes that took place in his work were not deviations from a dogmatic policy but consequences of the insights and experiences deriving from his eyes and his “thinking with his eyes,” as Paul Cezanne put it. Victory Boogie-Woogie is a fascinating and convincing example of this development.
The work came at a time when Mondrian was beginning to experiment with Cubism: its foreground and background elements seem to intermingle, and the palette is very restricted. The tree is subtly oval in form, following another Cubist practice seen in works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Mondrian’s oval became explicit, framing the work, in paintings that followed over the next three or four years. Apple Tree in Flower, also from 1912, is a similarly sized composition. Though the outline of the “apple tree” recalls that of Gray Tree, the work is significantly more faceted and abstract.
This painting shows the artist’s luminist period where he painted realistically but with brighter than actual colors and simplifying contours. This painting is a cross-over to his more rectangular and analytical style. Mondrian painted this painting in the Zeeland coastal resort of Domburg, at that time a popular artist’s colony in the summer months. His trees illustrate his shift towards abstract cubism.
During his first stay in Domburg, Mondrian reportedly made sketches of an apple tree in the garden of the Villa Loverendale, the home of Marie Tak van Poortvliet and her friend, the painter Jacoba van Heemskerck. The painting was completed during a subsequent visit to Domburg.
In Composition Number 10, Mondrian had reached the full development of his neo-plastic, non-representational form. Many of his paintings contained the basic elements of an interlocking grid of black lines and blocks of the three primary colors. Although the elements were few, he changed the structure of each of the elements in such a way that he was able to create a different aesthetic from each. It was in this later period of his work that Mondrian work until his hands blistered or he made himself cry. During this time, he was also rearranging and painting his Manhattan studio apartment in a similar grid and block pattern, which he changed and re-painted upon completion off certain canvases or projects.