10 curiosities about the life and work of Piet Mondrian

10 curiosidades sobre la vida y la obra de Piet Mondrian - Nomadart

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

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

1. A strict upbringing against his passion for art.

If it had been up to his parents, the master Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan and his wife, Johanna Christina de Kok, their second child (of five) would never have picked up a paintbrush in his life. Not only were they severely strict, but they were extremely religious and expected the young apprentice painter to follow their dictates into a clerical career.

Belonging to the Calvinist church (a branch of Protestant Christianity), Pieter and Johanna insisted so much that Mondrian had to convince them that he would study art to be a teacher. However, teaching did not fulfill him . This was facing in his mind the idea of ​​not disappointing his parents. He found the solution by studying theosophy , a doctrine that stipulated that the evolution of the individual begins with his journey and within that journey art would have its place.

2. From frustrated impressionism to successful neoplasticism.

Although the works that have made him a reference in the art world are undoubtedly his “Compositions” , focused on 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 greatly influenced by naturalism and impressionism , focusing his paintings on Dutch landscaping with a clear reference such as his compatriot Vincen Van Gogh .

Later he traveled to Paris (1912) , being impressed by the cubism and earthy colors of Picasso and Braque, which marked 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 paintings painted by him that cover the same motif, a tree, but presented in different styles.

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

The development of the new concept of Neo-Plasticism that Piet Mondrian would promulgate was conceived during 1914 and 1918 , a very troubled time since World War II was breaking out 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 the unity of society and despising individualism . To achieve this, he reduced his works to a minimum, using only the primary colors red, blue, white, yellow and black. Furthermore, to achieve the balance of the composition, he used only square and rectangular figures and linear movement .

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

Piet Mondrian

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

In 1917 Mondrian met another burgeoning Dutch artist who was also a writer, designer and entrepreneur, Theo van Doesburg . Together they 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 highly ambitious movement would be centered on Piet Mondrian's primary colors and neoplastic forms, so that his concept would serve as a tool and could be applied from architecture to production design in all art forms.

5. A Unesco Heritage house, inspired by the work of Mondrian.

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

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

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

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 the French designer Yves Saint Laurent turned his Mondrian dress (round neck and sleeveless) into an icon that must 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, a 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 had such an influence. in Neoplasticism (a movement championed by the Dutchman), they made it appear in important magazines such as Vogue or Life.

7. His indisputable mark on the Bauhaus school.

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 his second stage (1923-1925) in which the influence of Mondrian took part in the guidelines of the school, impregnating with his neoplasticism a multitude of designs conceived at that time.

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

In May 2015, Christie's organized a week of auctions in New York focused on impressionism and modern art. That Monday, Picasso, with The Women of Algiers , broke the world record held until then by Francis Bacon with Three Studies by Lucian Freud by selling 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, which the same Swiss author owned.

Thursday, May 14, was however an essential 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 dollars ( about 43 million euros), breaking a record for the Dutch painter dating from 2009... and almost doubling it, since it was at 27.59 million dollars.

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

For the past seven years, all those visitors who come to the small town of Winterswijk, in the east of the Netherlands , have been able to enter Villa Mondrian , where the artist lived as a child and which mainly explores his early paintings (until he was around 20 years old). years) that have nothing to do with his most famous paintings, since the artist began in the world of impressionism until he evolved into his abstract minimalism. In addition, he also keeps some works of his uncle Frits , from whom he received his first art lessons.

10. Your own board game designed in Spain

Sheila Santos (Madrid, 1987) and Israel Cendero (Madrid, 1986) form the Llama Dice team, which is dedicated to designing board games. Among those games, one of the most praised is Mondrian , a game of dice and cards at the same time, for two to four players , you have to devise 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 it used in classrooms in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in Spain. If you want to obtain it, you can request it here .

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