Monday, January 11, 2010

Maybe it's because my house is always a wreck and his world his so ordered, but I've always been drawn to the clean simple lines and strong primaries of his work. Doesn't he look like a buttoned up Dutchman?

Lots has been written about Mondrian's interest in Theosophy, but it seems that the question that matters is - how does it influence his work? You can read a short definition of Theosophy here, a lot more here, or you can just skip to this quick, in-a-hurry-Monday-morning rundown I came across in Carel Blotkamp's Mondrian:

What he did borrow from theosophical sources is the firm conviction that all life is directed towards evolution, and that . . . "the goal of art is to give expression to that evolution." p. 15

According to Blotkamp, in Mondrian's thinking, "ev
olution was closely bound up with destruction." He moved from depicting flowers in states of decay to completely abstract works that suggest the destruction of the incidental and the creation of a "purer image of reality." Here's an early work, Windmill (1911) - hasn't given up the form for pure abstraction yet.

At last, something about his work was starting to make sense to me. And Blotkamp goes farther to say:

By 1917=18 Mondrian had removed from his paintings t
he last vestiges of spatiality, capturing the planes within a network of lines. In his next phase, he makes further compositional changes in which "the colour planes have been destroyed as form: they are either pushed over the edge of the painting over traversed by lines, while the lines enclosing them always continue far beyond the planes."

Below is Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow (1940-44).

It was something I hadn't thought about, but Blotkamp says that "Mondrian was aware that these lines conducted themselves in such an independent fashion that they were in danger of becoming 'form', and in the early 30's he attempted to prevent this by doubling the lines or occasionally executing them in color."

You can see, with Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942-4 below, that toward the end of his life he began to break up the lines completely, creating the "cancellation of form in favour of relationships." (p.15) What do you think of this diagonal composition?

Okay, so that seems to me what I have in happening in my living room. Form has definitely been ignored in favor of relationships.


  1. I love that red windmill - so wonderfully ominous.

    When I was in Las Vegas this past weekend, we drove past a new branch library near my friends' place. The large windows in front were Mondrianesque, but with muted desert colors rather than primaries. Mondrian's lines still look so new.

  2. Ominous is right - maybe because of the vantage point - it looms. And the newness, I agree - they don't look like they should be 70 years old.