History Of Piet Mondrian History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Pieter Cornelis Mondrian was born March 7, 1872 in the small Dutch village of Aamersvoort. He was the second oldest of 2 brothers and one sister. His father made a living as a teacher but had talent as an amateur artist and was gifted in drafting. His father noticed at an early age that his son Piet had a gift for drawing and was able to give him drawing lessons. Credit must be given to his Uncle Fritz Mondrian, an artist as well that was self taught and made a living within the commercial art world. He taught the young Mondrian the basics of painting and his father took him to the countryside to sketch landscapes. Mondrian senior had hopes that his son would follow in his footsteps into the more stable profession of teaching. After winning his licenses he was allowed to teach at primary and secondary schools. Piet met his father’s demands by teaching but was not satisfied personally and in 1892 decided he was after all, going to become an artist. (Mondrian Biography)
He studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, from 1892 to 1897 with an allowance provided by his Uncle Fritz. There he studied either full time or attended evening classes and while there he joined several artist societies. He exhibited his work, for the first time in 1893 (he was 21). Traveling back and forth between Amsterdam and various parts of rural Holland he devoted practically all of his time to painting landscapes, first in the style of the “The Hague School” then gradually more and more abstract, omitting details he felt irrelevant. His work started to take on a more abstract style as the details of form started to get omitted, as he felt they were irrelevant. As his work got more abstract the more recognition he received and criticism from the art community. (Mondrian Biography)
In 1909 Mondrian joined a theosophical society that cast him away from his religious up-bringing as a Calvanist, but took him on a trip far from his foundation of thinking and influenced his art by his intellectual transformation. His style became a quasi-random and had disorderly qualities of nature, which started to transform his better known works of horizontal and vertical lines. The horizontal lines represent femininity and the worldly, the vertical defining masculinity and the spiritual. He coined the term “neo-plasticism” where he aimed to create a balance between the horizontal and the vertical, keeping in tune with the universe and his theosophical beliefs. In 1911 he saw for the first time the Cubist styles of Braque and Picasso at an art exhibition in Amsterdam. Soon after this he moved to Paris, the hub for French art and cubism, and it is believed by many, their works influenced this move. (Mondrian Biography)
Mondrian’s style went through a transformation. He painted a series of trees, the earliest the “Red” tree, it has realistic form and the texture is soft. In less than a year in 1911, the painting of the “Gray” tree still can be considered representational but can be seen for the more abstract style. A year later his painting of an apple tree is composed of short, straight lines and slight curves, symbols of a tree’s elements rather than actual details. Mondrian’s style got simpler with implied lines and geometric shapes and their relationships to each other on the canvas. Mondrian was taken by the cubist movement, he was already advancing to a more abstract style, rejecting mixed colors and curving or diagonal lines in order to make paintings of squares and rectangles. (Baker. 297) “Mondrian’s evolution as an artist represents the origin and essence of De Stijl. Working to free painting completely from both the depiction of real objects and the expression of personal feelings, he developed an austere style based on the expressive potential of fundamental visual elements and their relationships.” (Frank. 408) He labored to achieve balance and harmony, modifying shapes and lines in limitless variations. He never received much payment for his work and not until after his death was his work internationally acknowledged as one of the most important developments in twentieth-century abstract art. He felt he had found, as he put it, “A new way to express the beauty of nature, to gain pure reality.”
After moving to Paris he was internationally recognized for his exhibitions. He loved the night-life, parties and especially the dancing in Paris. He was said to have enjoyed the company of young women. His sales of art were few in Paris but he survived by painting copies of famous paintings from the Louvre. Piet returned to Holland in 1914 to visit his ill father.
The Great War as it was called erupted in 1914 most people felt it would not be a long fought war, with Prussia’s rapid spankings in the 1860s and 1870. The unthinkable happened and it became a full-scale war of nearly all societies. This was the first time the world was at war making for the moniker of World War I. Germany craved a larger empire to be had by packaging Russia into parcels and incorporating parts of Belgium, France, and Luxemburg. The French were interested in getting back Alsace and Lorraine which was ceded to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. The British craved to harden their footings in Egypt and the Suez Canal. This World War was wide-spread and involved more than the large European powers and Japan: their colonies were involved as well. Over one million Africans, one million from India, and over one million members of the British common-wealth fought in the battle fields. (Hunt. 394-401)
The Netherlands were able to remain neutral during the Great War. It did so, in large part to the fact that both aggressive powers had too much at stake to let their enemy invade the country. The War, transformed the feasibility of the Dutch remaining neutral. So much so, that the hopes and desires attached to neutrality in 1914 had disappeared in 1918 and the force of non-involvement had also been threatened. The war years and all the dealings the Dutch had involved themselves in with trade and picking friends on both sides failed to live up as a valuable foreign affairs policy. They were a tiny industrially challenged country that could not protect its very independence and nation state identity, without needing assistance from elsewhere. In another war situation neutrality could not sustain. (Abbenhauis)
Mondrian was trapped in Holland for 4 years. His father died in 1915 and after his death he moved to an artist’s community where he conversed with artists such as Van Der Leck and Van Doesburg. Van Doesburg founded a magazine called “De Stijl” Mondrian wrote some articles for the magazine. This group felt that architects and sculptors should work together to build a new society more in tune with the “Laws of the Universe”. This “De Stijl” art movement is most synonymous with the red, yellow, and blue neo-plasticism paintings of Piet Mondrian. He moved back to Paris in 1919, in Paris he had some more exhibitions, joined an art group and met American artist Harry Holtzman in 1934. (Mondrian Biography)
Hitler came to power in 1933 Mondrian’s work was put on the list of “Entartete Kunst” (degenerate art). After his experience during World War I when all his paintings were left behind in Paris, he decided to leave before the dawning of the German invasion. He was in London for two years and September1940, during the German bombardment he left for America. He arrived with borrowed money in New York City, Harry Holtzman found and paid for his apartment and introduced him to many friends. His life in New York influenced his career with internationally important works like” Broadway Boogie-Woogie” and his unfinished “Victory Boogie-Woogie”. He succumbed to pneumonia in a New York hospital in 1944, he was 71. (Mondrian Biography)
Tableau 2 with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray
This work completed in 1922, is oil on canvas measuring 21 7/8″ X 21 1/8″ and is located at the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City. ( Frank.409) The paints used in this are derived from pigment mixed with oil as a base to carry the color in a liquid from. Artists such as Michelangelo and DaVinci were concocting and milling their own paints by hand and added it to oils available. In modern times linseed oil is used for pre-mixed paints and they store well, sometimes for years. Special oils and mediums are required to thin these kinds of oil paints. Linseed oil is one of the most common mediums for modern oil painters. Canvas comes in two materials: cotton and linen. Unprimed cotton is a natural off-white color, and is the least expensive. It comes in several grades of thickness and quality. (MacIntosh)
The work is in the abstract style which Mondrian was best known for. The vertical and horizontal lines and blue, red, and yellow, are the primary style of his earlier mentioned self named “neo-plasticism.” The visual element of color is utilized in a bold way. The use of the three primary colors along with black and gray is almost shocking to the visual senses. The use of line as a visual element is clearly a bold separation for all the color elements. The design principles of unity and variety are used but there is no repeating in this design element, only single usage of each color. The black and yellow are the only two colors that are actually touching. This gives me an emotional fear of caution when I see them together. I really wish I knew what this means. The directional forces of the bold black lines carry your sight line outward toward the geometrical shapes. I don’t feel there is repetition to Tableau 2 but I can feel a rhythm with the strong emotions from each primary color. I feel the content of this work has the appearance of being incomplete in some ways. My eyes want to travel along the incomplete black lines that stop short of the edges. It has a very grid-like quality, as if these colored sections hold meaning to something more important. I think the content of the work is to make the viewer want to see more.
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