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10 curiosities about the life and work of Piet Mondrian

Index of contents

We delve into the figure of the Dutch painter to whom the Reina Sofía Museum is holding a retrospective that should have been held last May. From the founding of the magazine 'De Stijl' to his own board game.

Until next March 1, 2021 you can visit the exhibition Mondrian and De Stijl at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid (the most expensive exhibition in the Spanish art gallery, as the journalist Peio H. Riaño explained in a Twitter thread) and this is perhaps the best time to review some curiosities about the great painter from the Netherlands, who was born in the Dutch municipality of Amersfoort March 7, 1872 and he died, already an immigrant, 71 years later in New York due to pneumonia.

1. A strict upbringing against your passion for art.

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Piet Mondrian in New York (1942)

Had it been for his parents, the teacher Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan and his wife, Johanna Christina de Kok, their second child (of five) would not have taken a brush in his life. They were not only severely strict, but extremely religious and expected the young painter's apprentice to pursue a clerical career according to their dictates.

Belonging to the Calvinist church (a branch of Protestant Christianity), Pieter and Johanna were so insistent that Mondrian had to convince them that he would study art to become a teacher. However, teaching did not fill him. This ran in her mind with the idea of not disappointing her parents. The solution was found by studying theosophy, a doctrine that stipulated that the evolution of the individual part of his journey and within that journey art would have its place.

2. From frustrated impressionism to successful neoplasticism.

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Although the works that have made him a benchmark in the art world are undoubtedly his "Compositions", focused on a geometric and minimalist abstraction, Piet Mondrian has experimented with various pictorial styles until he found the one that catapulted him to fame, Neoplasticism. In the beginning, his painting was very influenced by the naturalism and impressionism, focusing his paintings on Dutch landscaping with a clear reference as was his compatriot Vincen Van Gogh.

Later traveled to Paris (1912), being impressed by cubism and the earthy colors of Picasso and Braque, which was his first initiation into the world of abstraction. In fact, he returned to his country and in just two years he developed a new concept of abstraction, neoplasticism, a movement focused on a new approach to the plastic arts reducing art to its minimum expression.

This evolution that the Dutch painter experienced can be clearly observed in a series of pictures painted by him that include the same motif, a tree, but raised from different styles.

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3. The political background of Piet Mondrian's work.

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The development of the new concept of neoplasticism that Piet Mondrian would enact fIt was conceived during 1914 and 1918, a very turbulent time since World War II was raging at the same time. Just as Malevich's art sought a reaction against Revolutionary Russia, Mondrian wanted to convey a political message through his works, betting on equality and unity of society and despising individualism. For this he reduced his works to the minimum expression, using only the primary colors red, blue, white, yellow and black. In addition, to achieve the balance of the composition, it only used square and rectangular figures and linear motion.

Neoplasticism means equality because each element, despite the differences, can have the same value as the rest

Piet mondrian

4. He was co-founder of the magazine and later De Stijl movement.

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Issue of the De Stijl Magazine

In 1917, Mondrian met another boiling Dutch artist who also served as a writer, designer, and entrepreneur. Theo van Doesburg. Together founded the magazine De Stijl (the style) through which they wanted to promote a new artistic movement that would unify an international style and work for the formation of a unity between life, art and culture. This movement of great ambition would focus on Piet Mondrian's primary colors and neoplasticist forms, so that his concept would serve as a tool and could be applied from architecture to production design in all artistic forms.

5. A Unesco Heritage house, inspired by Mondrian's work.

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Exterior of the Schröder House in Utretch

It all started when Truus Schröder, a wealthy widow from the city of Utrecht, commissioned Rietveld, an austere designer forerunner of the De Stijl movement, to create an exclusive design for the construction of her new home. Given the neoplasticist philosophy of the designer and without having many objections in sight, Rietveld practically reproduced a work by Piet Mondrian on the ground, both in the distribution of spaces and in the decoration and colorism of the house.

The Schröder House (1924) belongs today to the list of UNESCO's cultural heritage of humanity, and is currently a benchmark for aesthetic vision and its own architectural style.

6. The influence of Piet Mondrian in the world of fashion.

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Now it is easier to see even masks that recreate paintings by the enormous painter, but his mixture with fashion must go back to 1965 when French designer Yves Saint Laurent turned his Mondrian dress (round neck and sleeveless) into an icon to be anchored in a society that saw how the Mod movement was gaining momentum among young people.

In love with art, Saint Laurent understood that Composition II, composition with blue and red could be the object of inspiration for an outfit that ended up having an impact thanks to its flat colors and harmony, as well as its embrace of geometric abstraction that so influenced Neoplasticism (a movement that the Dutch championed), made it appear in important magazines like Vogue or Life.

7. His indisputable mark on the Bauhaus school.

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The famous Bauhaus school was a school founded by Walter Gropius that sought coexistence between architects, designers, craftsmen and artists, in which design was always at the service of functionality. It was in its second stage (1923-1925) in which the influence of Mondrian took part in the directives of the school, impregnating with its neoplasticism a multitude of designs conceived at that time.

8. The most expensive painting by Piet Mondrian exceeds 43 million Euros.

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Composition Number III, with red, blue, yellow and black

In May 2015, Christie's House organized an auction week in New York focused on Impressionism and Modern Art. That Monday, Picasso, with The women of Algiers, broke the world record that Francis Bacon held until then with Three studies of Lucian Freud to be sold for 179.3 million dollars (about 160.7 million euros). But it is that the same night of that Monday Alberto Giacometti pulverized another record with his The man who points, in the form of sculpture, selling for about 126 million euros and surpassing the previous mark, owned by the same Swiss author.

Thursday, May 14, was nevertheless an indispensable day in the history of Piet Mondrian's work, since his Composition Number III, with red, blue, yellow and black, from 1929, was awarded for $ 50.56 million (about 43 million euros), beating a record for the Dutch painter dating back to 2009… and almost doubling it, as it stood at $ 27.59 million.

9. A house-museum in his hometown to remember the Dutch artist.

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For seven years, all those visitors who come to the small town of Winterswijk, East Holland, can enter Villa Mondrian, where the artist lived as a child and who explores especially his original paintings (until he was around 20 years old) that have nothing to do with his most famous paintings, since the artist began in the world of impressionism until he evolved to his abstract minimalism. In addition, it also saves some works from his uncle Frits, from whom he received his first art lessons.

10. Your own board game designed in Spain

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Board game inspired by the famous Dutch artist.

Sheila Santos (Madrid, 1987) and Israel Cendero (Madrid, 1986) form the Llama Dice team, which are dedicated to designing board games. Among those games, one of the most praised is Mondrian, one game of dice and cards at a time, two to four playersYou have to come up with your own creations and that, yes, is based on the work of the popular painter. They define the pastime as "the art of chaos" or “the pince as distance” and they have even managed to get them to use it in classrooms in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in Spain. If you want to obtain, here you can order.

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Nomadart Editorial
Nomadart Editorial

An article on art and culture, written from the editorial studio of Nomadart.

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