Monday, November 10, 2014

Mondrian, Piet

A Farm Building
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter. His basic vision was rooted in landscapes, and in particular, the flat topography of his native Holland. At the outbreak of World War I, Mondrian was in Holland, at that time, he returned to the subjects and themes of his early career, describing them in simple horizontal and vertical lines and colors. Although he continued to develop the abstract style he had begun in the years before the war, he also worked in a more representational style.

He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism. He seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist. He is recognized as the purest and most methodical of the early abstractionists. He radically simplified the elements of his artwork in an effort to reflect what he believed to be the order underlying the visible world. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art. Abstract artists believed that painters, sculptors and architects must work together to build a new world, where people can live in balance with the laws of the universe. The forms that fit this philosophy had to be clear. Straight lines and corners were used.

His earliest paintings are generally realist landscapes with static compositions and the use of opaque colors. After his encounter with fauvism and his study of the Dutch avant-garde (Van Gogh, in particular), his colors become increasingly pure and less naturalistic. His next change reflects his awareness of cubism. The faceted exploration of subject matter and the language of painting is of less interest to him than the architectonic grid in the analytic cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque around 1912 and 13. His own paintings begin to demonstrate more centralized compositions, greater use of linearity, and a sense of expansion from a central focus.

A contemporary and disciple of the famous cubists Picasso and Braque, Mondrian challenged the definition of art itself, working with simple lines, right angles, correct geometric figures and pure, primary colors. His work attained a level of abstraction far beyond that of even his most progressive colleagues. His art and theory influenced the Bauhaus movement and the development of the International style in architecture.