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Piet Mondrian was born into an artistic family in Holland in 1872. His father gave
him traditional drawing lessons and his uncle Frits was a successful painter his
own right. His father wanted Piet to become an art teacher rather than an artist
so that he would have a safe job and be able to make a living. Then as now, being
an artist was not seen as a safe career option.
He did indeed start off on a conventional path and qualified as an art teacher, but
not long afterwards he decided to take his chances as an artist. His uncle Frits
was well connected and managed to get him a place at the expensive National Academy
of Art in Amsterdam. He first exhibited his work aged 21 a year after enrolling at
He travelled Holland and painted landscapes and trees. Piet Mondrian’s trees however,
became more and more abstract.
Shown above, Piet Mondrian “Trees”
He began leaving out detail he considered unnecessary to the painting. The more abstract
he became the more popular he was with the avant garde art set. Conversely he was
criticised heavily by the Dutch art critics who described him as ‘confused’.
Like a modern day pop star he reinvented himself more than once and broke from his
traditional Protestant upbringing to join the Theosophical movement in 1909. He meditated
and lived a lifestyle common amongst the arty set at the time. At this time he was
bearded and scruffy and he dressed informally. Later he changed again to be clean
shaven and dress in sharp suits.
These changes of personal dress reflected his painting styles at the time.
Moving from a love and respect for natural organic forms and landscapes he painted
more and more abstract imagery. Finally distilling this into painting horizontal
and vertical lines.
The horizontal lines represented femininity and the worldly, the vertical lines represented
masculinity and spirituality. He aimed to achieve a balance between the two, in harmony
with his new spiritual beliefs which were central to his art.
In Amsterdam in 1911 he saw a cubist exhibition featuring Picasso and Braque which
inspired him to move to Paris in 1912. He threw himself into the Paris life, the
parties, the dancing and the artistic freedom. He gained huge artistic acclaim although
he actually sold very little of his own work and made a living making copies of great
works in the Louvre.
His father became seriously ill at the outbreak of World War I and Mondrian returned
to Holland. He met fellow artists exiled in Holland during the war years including
Theo Van Doesburg who co-founded the De Stijl (the style) movement in 1917. Modrian
joined De Stijl and became a leading light, he is the movements most famous artist.
De Stijl’s philosophy was that artists could create a better world by producing art
that would be in harmony with nature. They postulated that if art was in tune spiritually
then that would create a paradise on earth. In writings for the de Stijl Magazine
in 1920, Mondrian called his style Neo-Plasticism.The De Stijl movement had a great
influence on The Bauhaus in Germany later on.
Mondrian wrote a series of articles called “De Nieuwe Beelding in de schilderkunst”
(“The New Plastic in Painting”)during 1917 and 1918. His father had died in 1915
and Mondrian returned to Paris after the war. Here he published a book called ‘Le
In the 1920’s, he produced a series of ‘lozenge’ paintings, square canvasses which
could be hung in a diamond shape.
In the 30’s Hitler announced that Mondrian’s art was degenerate and Mondrian took
this as a warning. As the Nazis advanced he fled Paris for London in 1938. He’d previously
met American artist Harry Holtzman in Paris in 1934 and when the Nazi’s threatened
to invade England in 1940, he moved to New York with Holtzman’s help.
In 1944 Mondrian died of pneumonia in a hospital in New York.
His striking geometric shapes were used in fashion, especially in the 1960’s and
are still an influence to this day.
Piet Mondrian paintings are amongst the best selling prints, posters and canvases
gracing living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We hope you’ve enjoyed
our facts about Piet Mondrian and we’ve inspired you to own some Piet Mondrian art
Born Holland in 1872 died in new York in 1944
Lived in Holland, moved to Paris in 1912
Early work consisted of traditional depictions of trees and landscapes, these Piet
Mondrian trees and landscapes became more and more abstract
Leading theorist and co founder of the influential De Stijl (The Style) movement
Lozenge canvasses. Square and could be hung in a diamond shape on the wall
Always trying to create art in harmony with his strong spiritual beliefs
Horizontal lines represented female and worldly attributes and vertical lines represented
the male and spirituality. His aim was to create a balance between the two
Reinvented himself and changed his image along with his paintings, moving from a
hippy look to a sharp suited city banker look