We all know Piet Mondriaan, right? Or do we? Certainly, if we see his very distinctive style, most people would recognise it. The straight lines. The geometric shapes. The bright colours. It is everywhere and it is iconic. It makes great wall art. Architects incorporate it into buildings. Children love to copy it because it speaks to them and is easy to paint. Even if some people cannot remember the name of the artist, the majority of people recognise the art. I think that is quite rare. I was curious to know more about Piet Mondriaan, the famous Dutch artist, so I went to Amersfoort and the Mondriannhuis to learn more. Read on to find out more about this fantastic artist.
Mondriaanhuis – One of the best Museums!
In 2019, before we could possibly imagine what a worldwide pandemic would be like, I went off to Amersfoort. It’s a lovely town and I had wanted to discover it and know more for some time. It is a charming place for sure and just a stone’s throw from Utrecht, making it an easy day trip from Amsterdam. I enjoyed a nice walk around town and then went to see the main reason for my visit to Amersfoort. I went to the Mondriaanhuis in Amsterfoort. It’s a lovely little museum on a small canal in the town centre. I went in hoping to learn more about this Dutch artist. I came out thing, ‘Wow, that is one of the best museums I have ever visited!’. That is not idle hyperbole. I really loved it. On one hand, I learnt a lot about the artist. On the second hand, I was blown away by the layout of the museum and the audiovisual installation. More on that later. The Mondriaanhuis is a must for all museum fans.
Source Wiki Commons
So who was Piet Mondriaan the Dutch artist? What was his path to making world-famous abstract art? It couldn’t have just happened overnight. Indeed it did not. Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan was born in 1872 in Amsterfoort. The house where he was born is now the museum dedicated to his life and works. You might say art was in the family. His father, also Pieter, was a teacher and art teacher and his uncle Fritz was an artist of note. He would ofter go painting with his uncle and showed some talent in painting landscapes. His upbringing was strictly protestant. In 1892, he started to study at the Acamaedy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam.. After that, he became a teacher like his father and also kept painting. His work at this time was largely figurative and impressionist in nature. A cubist art exhibition in Amsterdam had a big influence on him.
Source Wiki Commons
Paris and World War 1
As with so many other artists at the time, a move to live in Paris had a big influence on him. Paris was a magnet for artists from all corners of the globe. He moved to Paris in 1911 and shorted his name to Piet Mondrian. Paris was a melting pot of artists and artists styles. Mondriaan took more influence from cubism, especially the work of Picasso and Braque. As is often the case, life can mess with the best-laid plans. On a visit to the Netherlands, World War 1 broke out. Mondriaan stayed in his neutral country during the war. He spends time painting with an artistic collective in Laren. There, along with the artist Theo van Doesburg, both honing their abstract art, created the movement called De Stijl. They wrote and created a lot about this movement.
From Wiki Commons
Back to Paris
After the war, Mondriaan went back to Paris and stayed for 20 years. He continued with his now signature abstract art. The famous grid patterns ben in 1919 and 1920, but with grey lines that over the years then became thicker and blacker. Then the lines went to the sides of the canvas too and the numbers of colours were reduced and more white used. It was becoming the style we all now recognise. Modern artists from America started to visit Mondriaan in Paris and to buy his works. These were then exhibited in New York City. They said of Mondriaan: ‘Holland has produced three great painters who, though a logical expression of their own country, rose above it through the vigour of their personality – the first was Rembrandt, the second was Van Gogh, and the third is Mondrian.’
London and NYC and death
As fascism swept across Europe in the later 1930’s Mondriaan left Paris for London and then on to New York in 1940. His style progressed but remained essentially geometrical. Some of the New York pieces were ones that he started in London or Paris. It was in New York that the artist finally achieved massive critical acclaim for his style. He continued to push the boundaries until his untimely death in February 1944. He is buried in Brooklyn. His childhood home, the Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort is a Mondriaan museum dedicated to the artist and his life.
This is part of an ongoing series about Dutch artists. Here is an earlier one about Nicolaes Maes.
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