Piet Mondrian was born Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan on 7 March 1872, in Amersfoot, the Netherlands. From 1892 to 1897, he studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Until 1908, when he began to take annual trips to Domburg in Zeeland, Mondrian painted naturalistic landscapes influenced by Dutch academic painting. In 1909, an exhibition of his work was held at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and he joined the Theosophic Society. Around this time, he began experimenting with Pointillism and brighter colour, then in 1911, he began to explore Cubism; seeing the work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso at an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1911 compelled him to move to Paris, where he remained until 1914.
Whilst Mondrian began to develop an independent abstract language during his time in Paris, it was when back in the Netherlands during the First World War that he formulated his non-objective Neoplastic style whilst working alongside Bart van den Leck and Theo van Doesburg in Laren. Mondrian and Van Doesburg would co-found De Stijl in 1917, which championed the restriction of pictorial language to its most basic elements: the straight line, primary colours, and neutral tones of black, white, and grey. In 1918, Mondrian returned to Paris and would begin producing grid-based paintings from the following year. Mondrian would reach his ‘mature’ style – characterised by the thicker black lines delineating the grid and use of black, white, and primary colours to fill it – around 1921. In the mid-1920s, Mondrian began to produce his ‘lozenge’ paintings, which employed the same grid style but upon a square canvas rotated forty-five degrees. In 1923, he exhibited with De Stijl, though he would leave the group shortly afterward in reaction to Van Doesburg declaring the diagonal line to be more vital than the vertical or horizontal.
In 1929, Mondrian began to collaborate with the Cercle et Carré group and in 1931, he joined Abstraction-Création. Mondrian met Ben Nicholson in 1934, and would publish his essay Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art in the journal Nicholson co-edited, Circle. Mondrian would move to London in 1938, before settling in New York in 1940. Mondrian’s style evolved with his new surroundings and he began to replace the austere black lines of his 1930s grids with coloured lines articulated with striped bands of colour. Broadway Boogie-Woogie, c. 1943 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), exemplifies the artist’s new joyous aesthetic, inspired by the rhythmic flow of jazz music and the urban metropolis. Mondrian had his first solo show in almost two decades at the Valentine Dudensing Gallery, New York, in 1942. Mondrian died on 1 February 1944, in New York.
Mondrian’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Vienna; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM), Rome; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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