Piet Mondrian

Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian was a Dutch painter known to have been one of the main contributors to the development of the De Stijl art movement. He was known to have developed painting in a non-representational form that he termed Neo-Plasticism. It involves painting grids composed of vertical and horizontal lines with color use limited only to the three known primary colors.

Early History

Mondrian was born Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan on March 7, 1872. He was born in Amersfoort in the Netherlands. He was the second of four children. The family stayed at Amersfoort for the first eight years of Mondrian’s life. The family eventually moved to Winterswijk where his father, Pieter Cornelis Sr. was appointed as a headmaster at a local primary school there.

Mondrian was introduced to art at a very young age. One of his early influences was his father, who was a qualified drawing teacher and an uncle named Fritz Mondriaan, a self-taught but successful painter. The young Mondrian learned to paint and draw usually along the shores of the Gein River.

Early Career

Mondrian was educated to become a drawing teacher. His first work actually had him teach drawing to primary and secondary school students. While teaching, Mondrian also tried his hand on painting during his spare time. Most of his early works during this period consist of naturalistic and impressionistic paintings of landscapes. He also began experimenting with other styles in an effort to find his own personal voice.

In 1892, Mondrian decided to become an artist. He eventually moved to Amsterdam to study art at the National Academy of Art, ably supported by an allowance obtained for him by his uncle Fritz. During his stay in Amsterdam, Mondrian began to focus on studying art and actual painting. He also joined into several art societies where he was able to exhibit his own works for the first time in 1893.

During the course of his art career, Mondrian’s work began to take a more abstract approach. He started with painting Impressionist landscapes that gradually became more abstract as he began to take away certain details that he regarded as irrelevant. Along the way, fellow artists began to recognize his work the more they became abstract, which led him to further change his style.

Life Changes

Mondrian was deeply influenced by Cubist paintings during a 1911 Moderne Kunstkring exhibition in Amsterdam. This eventually led him to move to Paris in order to further learn about Cubism. It was also during this time that he decided to change his name by removing the second "a" in his family name. Mondrian’s subsequent work began to take a more abstract form, paintings that are increasingly dominated by geometrical shapes and interlocking planes.

Neoplasticism Period

Mondrian went visited his home in the Netherlands during 1914. The start of World War I forced him to remain there until the end of the war. It was here that he was able to meet other artists such as Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg. With Van Doesburg,  Mondrian began to establish the De Stijl, a journal where Mondrian began to write the essays to define the theories behind an art form he termed as Neoplasticism.

Mondrian returned to France in 1919 after the war ended. The flooding of artistic innovation that appeared in post-war France encouraged Mondrian to embrace an art form of pure abstraction which he began to follow for the rest of his life. World War II in 1940 led him to leave Paris, stay in London, and eventually move to New York City where he remained until his death.

At his return to Paris, his works began to take shape that eventually became his trademark work consisting usually of a grid of vertical and horizontal lines with some of the rectangular shapes within painted with primary colors. All throughout his life, he continued developing his works as defined by the principles of Neoplasticism that he wrote about. Mondrian died of pneumonia on February 1, 1944 in New York.  

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