Piet Mondrian was born in Amersfoort, Netherlands in 1872 to a family of painters and artists where art and music were encouraged. Piet’s father gave him drawing lessons as a kid, while his uncle, who was a well-known painter, taught Piet how to paint. This led him to pursue a career in education and became a drawing teacher, while still actively painting. The environment of the Netherlands where he drew naturalistic landscapes and incorporated his signature abstract design and primary colors influenced the beginning of his career. When he moved to Paris, Piet became influenced by the Cubist style of Picasso and this greatly impacted his future work.
The Gray Tree (1912)
The Gray Tree (1912) embodies Mondrian’s early transition towards abstraction of naturalistic scenery and the influence of Cubist design. The reason why Mondrian changed the landscape of European art was because many artists of the time period were depicting realistic, naturally occurring paintings, where in this painting the three-dimensional tree has been reduced to lines and planes using only gray and black colors. Mondrian’s later paintings of tress were abstracted to the extreme of being barely detectable through the use of horizontal and vertical lines.
Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue (1921)
Once World War I had ended, Mondrian returned to Paris where he would become fully immersed in abstraction painting. This is when he began producing the majority of his work as the grid-like style, filled with primary colors and bold horizontal and vertical lines. The use of asymmetry, different sizes and colors of shapes creates the flow of the piece that speaks to the rhythm of modern life according to Mondrian. To create a sense of depth in these seemingly plain paintings, Mondrian would use different brush stroke techniques to make certain colors appear to be closer or farther away. This abstract style set him apart from other artists of his time and gave him renowned recognition.
Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942-43)
During the time of this painting, Mondrian had moved from London to New York City where he would spend the rest of his living days. The inspiration behind this painting comes from the exuberance and energy of New York City, while also portraying the tempo of jazz music of that time period. This painting is much different than his previous pieces because of the use of lines of color intermixed with blocks of solid color. The yellow lines and asymmetric distribution of red and blue blocks represent taxi cabs picking up people from stop light to stop light in the busy city of Manhattan and New York City. This was Piet Mondrian’s final completed painting as a symbol of his developing style of abstraction and simplicity.
Piet Mondrian set the path for abstract art and became the trendsetter of the De Stijl art movement. He showed that abstraction and simplicity could be just as sophisticated and detailed as natural and realistic paintings. He also showed that use of primary colors, straight lines and corners, and geometry in a painting could create a narrative that speaks to the culture of his time. His work is now on display in Manhattan and several other museums in the Netherlands.
Deicher, Susanne (1995). Piet Mondrian, 1872–1944: Structures in Space. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen.
Falconer, M. (2013). Piet Mondrian Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.theartstory.org/artist-mondrian-piet.htm
Piet Mondrian. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved, Feb 27, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/piet-mondrian-9411728.
Threlfall, T. (1988). Piet Mondrian: His life's work and evolution, 1872 to 1944. New York: Garland Pub. Print.