Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spotlight on Piet Mondrian

Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan was born on March 7th, 1872 in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. The son of a Headmaster of a primary school, as well as an acclaimed drawing teacher, it was no wonder that little Piet became interested in the arts at an early age. The first exhibition of his work was in 1890 and by 1892 he was enrolled at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. While his artwork at this point was indicative of the times, representing impressionistic landscapes, mostly of windmills, rivers and fields, there was an inkling of some of the changes to come.

Windmill in Sunlight - 1908
These changes would become a regular occurrence throughout Mondriaan's lifetime. The naturalistic style that he originally developed while at school, soon morphed into a brighter palette more akin to Fauvism, with definite nods to pointillism. In 1908, Mondriaan embraced the Theosophical movement, led by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, which in turn saw his paintings begin to lean more towards Cubism. By 1911, he moved to Paris, dropped an "a" from Mondriaan to become Mondrian and embraced the new Cubist artists Picasso and Georges Braque full-heartedly.

Grey Tree - 1912
Mondrian spent the next four years in Paris actively exploring Cubism in his art. While the process was a gradual one, geometric shapes and patterns emerged in his artwork and his colour palette became increasingly simple and abstract. In 1914, he returned to Amsterdam to visit his ailing father, but the outbreak of World War I forced him to remain in country for the remainder of the war. Paris's influence stayed with him though and his paintings became even more abstract, with the focus on lines and blocks of colours. Gone were any traces of the impressionism that he started with.

Composition A: 
Composition with Black, Red, Gray, Yellow & Blue - 1920
While Mondrian returned to Paris as soon as the war was over, an important milestone was marked during his stay in The Netherlands; that of founding De Stijl (The Style) with Theo van Doesburg. It was through the essays that he wrote for De Stijl that he shared his vision of a new style of art called neoplasticism. This new non-representational style that Mondrian developed is nowadays seen as the beginning of abstract art. Ultimately what it looked like was a white background with a dark grid set upon it and the addition of primary colour blocks to represent the beauty and awareness of nature from the artist's eye.

New York City II - 1942
When World War II broke out Mondrian left Paris for England. He spent two years there, before leaving for the United States, where another change in his artistic style took place. Where his grid lines had originally been gray and thin, gradually getting thicker and darker, with fewer colour blocks apparent, now the grid itself became the colour. While still exploring this vibrant turn in his neoplasticism, Mondrian fell ill and died on February 1st, 1944. The art and fresh look at what it could be left a huge mark on the world though, that is still felt today.

This weekend, Budding Artists will take an in depth look at Piet Mondrian in the Master Series children's art workshop at the London Farmer's Market. Join us on Saturday February 18th at 10am and 1pm for 90 minutes of art history, games, and creation in the style of this abstract painter. Register today!

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