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George Baxter : The Abstract Art of Piet Mondrian

The Abstract Art of Piet Mondrian — Expressionist Abstract Artist

By George Baxter

Holland-born artist Piet Mondrian is known for developing Neo-Plasticism, a non-representational abstract painting style. He is also known for his minimal manner of abstraction. Mondrian contributed much to De Stijl (The Style), an art movement which he co-founded with Theo van Doesburg. His abstract art output was always closely related to his studies in philosophy and spirituality.

Pieter Cornelis Mondrian Jr. (Piet Mondrian) was born in the Amersfoort area of Netherlands on the 7th of March, 1872. He had five siblings — four brothers and a sister. As his father was a drawing instructor and his uncle, a student of Dutch painter Willem Maris; Mondrian got an early introduction into the world of art. In accordance with the wishes of his father Mondrian also became a teacher. Side by side with teaching, Mondrian also worked as an artist creating many impressionistic paintings. However, in 1892 Mondrian shifted to art fulltime with his entry into 'Amsterdam's Academy for Fine Art'.

Most of his paintings until 1908 showed the influence of Symbolism, Dutch Impressionism and still-life painting. A series of canvases which Mondrian created from 1905 to 1908 are the earliest foretaste of the abstract art that he was soon to produce. For two years after 1908 he experimented with cubism and symbolism exclusively.

Having seen the original works of Cubist art by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Mondrian was inspired to go to Paris in 1911. While in Paris, his work 'The Sea' (1912) clearly showed the influence of Picasso and Braque. Cubism in the French capital led him to create several paintings centering around trees including 'Flowering Apple Tree'. It was also in Paris that Mondrian started creating an abstract art style of his own.

Piet Mondrian returned to Holland in 1914. He started limiting himself to geometric shapes and colours further, and developed his abstract art style called Neo-Plasticism. In Holland in 1917, he co-founded De Stijl which had prominent group members including Georges Vantongerloo and Bart van der Leck. The movement was a quest for the laws of balance in not just art but also in life. Mondrian's writings on abstract art appeared in the 'De Stijl' periodical.

In 1919, Mondrian was back in Paris and he started creating paintings that were grid-based. In the 1920's he exhibited with De Stijl but left the group in 1925. In 1931 he joined the artist association 'Abstraction-Création'. The intellectual liberty of post-war Paris proved beneficial in making Mondrian embrace pure abstract art for the remaining years of his life. 'Schilderij No. 1', a lozenge work which Mondrian finished in 1926 demonstractes a highly extreme form of minimalism.

World War II and an upcoming German invasion forced Mondrian to move from Paris to London and then to New York, where he settled in October 1940 and remained till his death. In New York, Mondrian joined the 1936 founded American Abstract Artists (AAA) organization. In 1942, he had his first one-man show at the Valentine Dudensing Gallery. Very large works such as 'Broadway Boogie-Woogie' and the uncompleted 'Victory Boogie-Woogie' marked the pinnacle of Mondrian's career. Piet Mondrian developed pneumonia and died aged 71, on February 1st 1944. •

Copyright © 2008 George Baxter

George BaxterGeorge Baxter is a retired art teacher who takes great interest in Art History as a semi professional artist and also creates Abstract Art on a variety of Interior Design projects.More »