Contextual Research CPS Painting Research Studio Practice Term 2

Contextual Post – Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian was an artist who focused on still lifes and landscapes at the start of his artistic journey and later on started to create more abstract work focusing a lot on shape and lines. He also experimented with symbolism, pointillism and cubism. The first world war made Piet reduce his uses of colour and shapes which was the beginning of his nonobjective Neoplastic style. He became one of the founders of a group called De Stijl which involved the simplification and abstraction of architecture and graphic/industrial design. He did an exhibition with this group but withdrew from it when they tried to reintroduce some elements that had been removed prior such as diagonal shapes.

Information I got from video above:

Piet Mondrian was one of the great pioneers of abstract painting. He was a man with two conflicting traits to his temperament that had a great influence on his painting, one was a sense of feeling for rhythm which was reflected in his interest in music and particularly Jazz and this seemed to reflect his positive side of his nature. The other was his love of order and balance. These two conflicting qualities flowed throughout the development of his work but eventually he found resolution in his later abstract paintings.

His father was a qualified drawing teacher and became headmaster of the local Christian School. At the age of 16, he left school to start studying painting and drawing and passed his lower certificate examination in 1889 which allowed him to teach at his father’s primary school. In his free time, he painted landscapes in a rather traditional fashion.

In 1892, Mondrian moved to Amsterdam and entered the Reich’s Academy. He left three years later and earned his living making copies of famous paintings. In 1897, he became a member of Saint Lucas the artists Association for students of the right Academy and for the next few years continued working by painting copies of museum paintings and producing scientific drawings found during this. He started to exhibit his own landscape paintings which were much influenced by The Hague school her group of Dutch artists who took their inspiration from the idealised and naturalistic painting of the French barbies and movement of the 1830s and 1840s, but he had little success selling these paintings.

In 1905, he saw an exhibition of the early work of Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam which had a profound effect on him, influencing him to choose bold colour and more vibrant brushwork. He was also inspired from an early age in his career by the fascination for trees and seemed to be attracted to the problem of the ways branches, twigs, sky, and foliage interact with each other. He enjoyed the rhythmic structure they represented and how that could be represented on a canvas during this time he exhibited a lot of work but despite developing a reputation for evening landscape paintings he still sold very little. In 1908, he visited homburg where he met several Avant Garde artists including the Dutch artist young tarup. These artists were very interesting divisionism which put simply means the application of colour in small separate blocks like pointillism painting.

In 1911 Piet Mondrian exhibited work in Paris and saw the Cubist paintings of Picasso for the first time. He moved to Paris and almost married his friend Greta but changed his mind at the last minute. Some of his paintings were sent to the Gallery Dash Term in Berlin but sales were very limited. Trees were still an important source of inspiration, but Mondrian’s ideas were developing as he incorporated negative space, making the shapes between the branches become as important as the branches themselves. The shapes and lines used were organised into a structure which is not a tree, but the spirit of a tree and these paintings had neutral titles. By the end of 1913, his subject matter began to move away from the heavy reliance on trees and objects to more spiritual interpretations of the world.

After the chaos of the First World War, Mondrian wanted abstract art influenced in part by Cubism and suprematism and designed to endear to the strict rules of composition. The idea was to strip out all naturalism and all other essentials from the painting to attain the universal truths outlined by this. This saw all representations of reality disappear from his paintings, with his main aim being to express the relationships between colours and shapes rather than objects in his paintings.

In 1919, he painted his first neoplastic composition. When talking about the painting, he said “I have now made a painting that pleases me more than any of my previous work, it has been a long quest”. These paintings colours were inspired by Matisse, especially regarding their placement as some come forward and others recede based upon context. In the 1950s, Mondrian began to experiment with cutting out coloured squares in paper and putting them on his wall. He was seeking to create balance and harmony with colour and line and believed this could be achieved even if there was discord between them. The studio became a huge talking point and in 1925, more people visited his studio and showed an interest in purchasing his paintings. He did his experimental diamond paintings this year too.

In 1929, his abstract paintings were beginning to sell, and his painting was becoming more radical. By 1931, colour was beginning to disappear from his work to be dominated by White Plains and black lines which differed in width. He repeated designs, which became known as his double line paintings which sold quite well within USA. In Germany, the reaction was quite different under Hitler’s regime, his painting was declared degenerate and examples were included in the infamous degenerate art exhibition of 1937 held in Munich. Under Hitler’s cultural policy degenerate art was seen as an insult to the German feeling and included all modernist painting and of course any work by artists of Jewish or Bolshevik origin.

Piet Mondrian loved rhythm as he took an interest in music and also loved balance. These conflicting traits are showed throughout the development of his work but he came to a solution in his most abstract works which demonstrate a rhythm as well as a balance.

In his earlier works, Mondrian focused a lot on realism. I like that he worked on materials such as cardboard as this is easy to find and most likely allowed him to add more texture to his works. This painting looks as though Mondrian used a palette knife as he captured a lot of texture. I like that he captured a scene of everyday life as I feel this relates to my work yet I also feel very inspired by his later, more abstract art which I am incorporating into my own work.

Piet Mondrian’s abstract works moved away from representing objects and instead demonstrated his spiritual views of the world.

This is one of Piet Mondrian’s still life pieces which has an interesting use of bold lines. The composition and colours used work well and the contrast draw the eyes to the image. The elements of texture applied is interesting and I feel this adds to the painting. Mondrian was inspired by Paul Cézanne’s method of breaking down compositions with colour. As Mondrian was loose with the paint, this seemed a lot different to his previous works yet he still used similar colours so it linked in some ways.

This painting was a further abstraction of the painting above and made a lot of the objects rather difficult to identify as they had a lot less detail and were more solid shapes. Again, the use of line is very strong in creating contrasts and the warm colours used work well together yet contrast with the dark lines around the objects. The works during this period of abstraction focused on a central motif (in this work being the ginger pot) and the rest of the paintings surrounding these central motifs having a lot of symmetry. In these paintings Mondrian was trying to maintain balance and order which he continued to do even in his later pieces which were even more abstract.

This painting demonstrated Mondrian’s fascination with Cubist paintings created by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. In the process of creating this painting, he broke down his subject, a tree, into interlocking lines and planes of colour and used colours that were very commonly used in Cubist paintings. However Mondrian made his subject very difficult to identify and made an interesting choice to make the scaffolding fade at the edges of the canvas.

This painting was created at a time when Piet Mondrian was aiming for even more abstraction in his work by moving away from subjects he enjoyed working with including architecture and nature. ‘Composition’ was the last painting Mondrian created where you can see that he was inspired by an actual source, in this case being a church. A strip frame was created for this painting as he didn’t want the depth that came with traditional frames.

Information I got from video above:

‘It can sometimes be hard to appreciate these shuffling colourful squares and these intersecting black lines. Mondrian’s paintings all blend as if each of them were unique yet identical at the same time. This style was only one step in Mondrian’s quite linear artistic progression. He was born in 1872 and will begin painting landscapes just like many other Dutch artists. Then he adopts unconventional techniques, for example, most Dutch landscapes displayed the famous Netherlands Sky in its puffy clouds, but Mondrian put the horizon line extremely high, not leaving much space for any clouds. He then explored many different movements such as impressionism as seen in ‘Willow Grove impression of light and shadows’ made in 1905. He also explores post impressionism as seen an ‘evening red tree’ completed in 1910 in which we can clearly see the influence coming from Van Gogh. He had a service space which will preface the importance of primary colours in his later work but in 1911 an art movement will heavily influence him; he discovers through Picasso and black Cubism and will move to Paris to further his career. In 1911 he paints a first version of still life with ginger pot and then the following year reinterprets the painting in a cubist style. The intersecting black lines first made their appearance only almost starting to move away from representation which we can see by comparing his older tree paintings with ‘the great tree’ painted in 1911. Only one year later he will again make one step closer to abstraction with another representation of a tree ‘flowering Apple tree’.

He will continue to make abstract paintings in Paris until 1914 when during a visit in the Netherlands, World War One begins not allowing Mondrian to go back to France. Mondrian defines neoplasticism, he will write as a pure representation of the human mind or it will express itself in an aesthetically purified way abstract form the new plastic idea cannot therefore take the form of a natural or concrete representation. The new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance that is natural form in colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colours. This will be the birth of the Mondrian we know of today with the colours in the geometry. But it’s only the 1920s that Mondrian will start painting the iconic compositions which will also evolve with time. The first compositions usually had more colours and shapes and sometimes the black lines wouldn’t even reach the edge of the canvas. With time though, Mondrian purified his work, stripping away more and more elements. His compositions started to include less colours but sometimes more lines making his work seem more minimalistic or simplified. Finally in 1938, with the rise of fascism in Europe Mondrian moves to London and in 1940 decides to move to New York City. This will be the last step in modern artistic evolution even though he’s 68 when he moves to New York he is captivated by the energy this city has the busy streets the booming culture and especially in jazz. Music will animate him, the black lines in his compositions will be replaced by colourful lines overlapping each other. The last painting Mondrian completes is called ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’, a representation of the grid like streets of New York; the lines are vivid and unlike any other Mondrian paintings. They are continuously interrupted by colour, the lines are not continuous anymore, they are extremely busy almost as if they had a certain rhythm to them. Mondrian wanted to create universal art that through his harmony and simplicity could appeal to any individual no matter their background. By simplifying what he painted, Mondrian broke down his subjects to their core of lines, shapes and colours and arranged them to create balance. You may admire Mondrian’s work or maybe you don’t see what’s so interesting about his horizontal and vertical lines but what’s less debatable is how fascinating Mondrian’s quest for purification is. You may not like his individual artworks, but Mondrian’s work is interesting to analyse as it’s the work of a lifetime from the post-impressionist tree to the cubist branches all the way to the streets of New York. Multi artistic progress is a work of art.’

How Piet Mondrian’s work is inspiring me in my project:

I decided to research Piet Mondrian as my work includes a lot of solid colours and dark outlines, it is very graphic which relates to his work. I feel that I could create pieces which are very simplistic in shapes and colour palettes but I don’t want to use fully opaque colours as I still want a sense of realism in my work. I like the contrasts that Piet Mondrian manages to capture in his work, both the more detailed pieces and the more simplistic square pieces and I am hoping to incorporate some of his colour palettes into my work as they work well and could help me incorporate some successful colour palettes into my compositions. Although I like the black outlines, I don’t want to use a black outline in all of my pieces as I feel it will be too distracting from the architecture so i will choose colours which are more subtle if I incorporate any harsh lines but I love the ways the different elements of Piet Mondrian’s paintings flow together.

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