Piet Mondrian

Beauty in Blocks

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Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (1872–1944) was a Dutch painter and art theoretician renowned for being one of the greatest artists of the 20th century for his use of colour in abstract art. 


Mondrian’s life as a painter began in his native Netherlands. In 1892 he joined the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam and became a qualified teacher for primary education and a painter in his spare time. His work around this time was naturistic and impressionistic, mostly of landscapes in his local area seen in his Impression of Light, c.1905. Later his work would become more abstract with Mondrian preferring solely using the primary colours red, blue and yellow. He would emphasise this further in his later works. Mondrian became drawn to the theosophical movement founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky as he was interested in spiritual and philosophical studies. 


In 1911 Mondrian left the Netherlands for Paris and changed his name dropping the ‘a’ from ‘Mondriaan’ to signify his entry to the Parisian avant-garde. It was in Paris where he would become inspired by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and the cubism movement which was seen in his paintings around this time such as Gray Tree, (1911).

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Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man.


- Piet Mondrian

Mondrian returned to the Netherlands on a visit in 1914, but the looming threat of war forced him to remain for the entire duration of the Great War. This was a blessing in disguise for Mondrian as he would then pioneer a new movement, De Stijl (English: The Style) in 1917 alongside other painters Vilmos Huszár, Bart van der Leck, and the architects Gerrit Rietveld, Robert van 't Hoff, and J. J. P. Oud. De Stijl's works are usually comprised of abstracts at its purest, using black, white and primary colour blocks to create striking sculptures or paintings. Some notable works from this era were Red and Blue Chair designed by Rietveld and Aubbette Dance Hall in Strasbourg designed in collaboration with Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp. In 1924 the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht was built using the principles of De Stijl. 


After the allied victory, Mondrian would return to Paris, which was having a post-war boom, of artistic culture. It was at this time Mondrian would fully embrace abstraction and De Stijl would evolve into Neoplasticism, Mondian’s avant-garde alongside Theo van Doesburg, which swept across the artistic world. Typical Neoplastic works were made of vertical and horizontal lines and defined primary colours to create a bold and striking.  

Mondrian would paint some of his most iconic paintings in the Neoplasticism style, namely Composition with Red Blue and Yellow, (1930) and Composition with Red Yellow and Blue, (1930). 


1938 saw the rise of Fascism in Europe and Mondrian left Paris yet again, this time for London. Although his time in London was brief as he would move to New York after the Nazis captured Paris in 1940, it is believed several of Mondrian paintings which were finished in New York were first conceived in London such as Composition No. 10., (1939-1942), and Trafalgar Square, (1939-1943). It was becoming clearer that Mondrian’s work was directly related to the landscape around him. This concept was further elevated in New York with works such as New York City I, (1942) and Broadway Boogie Woogie, (1943) where there’s a connection to the grid-like layout of New York. Mondrian would remain in New York until his death on the 3rd of February 1944. 

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It is undeniable the impact Mondain's legacy left on the artistic world. His work oversaw the European modernist movement of the 20th century. Many of his pieces carried and showed the growth of humanity, with his early works showcasing nature and landscapes which then evolved to abstract cityscapes, showing a wonderful example of the rapid urbanisation of the 20th century. 


We recreated Mondrian’s Composition C (No. III) with Red, Yellow and Blue using bespoke Potters EcoBoard boxes coated in Winter’s Buckram paper as well as ribbon. We used Ruby, Sunshine and Blueberry which are available as part of our Bespoke paper colours. 

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