Piet Mondrian Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow utilizes his infamous color palette of primary colors, in which bright reds, blues and yellows starkly contrast with monochrome black and whites.
It is one of Piet Mondrian’s (Piet Mondriaan) most famous paintings.
Finished in 1930 it’s a comparatively small oil painting but one with massive impact. At just 59.5cm square, the work powerfully conveys Mondrian’s abstract experimentation. Thick, black geometric lines define the borders of squares of primary colors.
A red square occupies the top right-hand corner, whilst a smaller bright blue square floats at the bottom left. Mondrian’s signature playfully hides at the bottom-left of the work. Amid the white and black lines, a third square of vivid yellow sits in the bottom-right of the canvas. Despite their black “frames” all the squares drift off the edge of the canvas.
Displayed in the Kunsthaus, Zurich, this oil painting on canvas is a product of the Dutch De Stijl movement (translating as “the style”). Theoretical issues were equally essential as aesthetic portrayals to De Stijl adherents, which was comprised of a diverse mix of artists and architects.
Mondrian collaborated with the architect and artist Theo van Doesburg to produce the De Stijl journal. Within this publication, they argued for near total abstraction. As part of their theorizing, refining and reducing artworks to their most essential elements was key.
In line with this, Piet Mondrian artworks avoided naturalistic representation. Describing his work, Mondrian insisted “art is higher than reality”. As such, focusing on spiritual concerns rather than physical presence was the ultimate aim.
Mondrian’s paintings appear incredibly controlled and carefully managed at first. However, the closer one looks, the more details appear. Mondrian left visible brushstrokes and finished some lines just short of the edge of the canvas.
Notice how the black line just above the yellow square finishes short of the others. The black “frames” all vary in thickness. In addition, hints of the white background (for instance at the top-right hand corner of the blue square) are visible, foregrounding the act of painting itself. Moreover, the oil paint has crackled over time, bringing additional texture to the work.
Piet Mondrian paintings all focused on the ideals of harmony and balance. The colored squares and rectangles interact in a complex manner. For instance, the large red square is prevented from dominating the canvas by the counterpoints of blue and yellow. To avoid any impression of weight or substance, the yellow square is removed from “supporting” the red plane with an interspersing gap of white.
It was only with Mondrian’s arrival in Paris (around 1911) that he put De Stijl's ideas into practice. While Mondrian admired French groups such as the Cubists, he believed their realistic approach to painting and art theory didn't go far enough. He also despised the impressionist style, which he considered overly agitated and passionate.
Mondrian’s flat planes of color were his solution to the problem of creating “harmony and unity” within the arts. This led to the famed abstraction of Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue. He later developed the technique with more energetic pieces such as Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1943), which reflected the interplay of traffic on New York’s grid-like streets.
He was born in 1872 in Amersfoort, Holland and died in New York on 1944.
Mondrian is known for his colorful geometric art compositions which encompass horizontal and certical lines and the use of primary colors red, blue and yellow, along with black, white and gray.
Piet Mondrian and Theo von Doesburg were the inspiration and founders of the Neo-Plasticism Abstract Art Movement.
One of his most famous Mondrian paintings is Broadway Boogie-Woogie which is held by MoMA in Manhattan
His father was an amateur painter but he was taught by his uncle, Fritz Mondrian, who was a member of the Hague School of Landscape artists. He studied in Amsterdam and became a primary school teacher, but his intention was always to become an artist. In 1892 he enrolled at the Academy for Fine Art and in 1893 his first paintings were exhibited.
Fellow Dutch artist, Jan Toorop encouraged Mondrian to discover the work of the French Post-Impressionist artists. This proved to be a pivotal moment and his paintings changed from this point in time and they began encompassing bold brushwork and bright colors as evidenced in The Blue Tree c1908
Mondrian's career took a further turn when he moved to Paris and became involved with the Cubist movement started by Picasso and Braque; Gray Tree 1912 was Mondrian’s first oil painting applying abstract cubist principles.
In 1919 and at the end of WW1, Mondrian returned to Paris and it was here he started his grid-based paintings.
Just before the start of WW2 he moved to London, and then to New York in 1940 where he remained until his death in 1944 of pneumonia.
In 2015, Mondrian’s Composition III sold at Christie’s in New York for $50 million, setting a record figure for the artist.
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