An explanation of Piet Mondrian's work by Michael Sciam

An overview

While Mondrian’s oeuvre as a whole constitutes a unified process with no breaks in continuity, we shall divide it into five chapters for explanatory purposes.
In order to gain a first visual insight into the whole process, it is suggested to scroll in sequential order the five chapters on this page before opening their respective pages.

1. THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL

Natural landscapes expanding horizontally and artificial constructions concentrating into a vertical space interpenetrate in the figure of a bare tree expressing an ideal unity of the opposite directions which evokes balance between the extended, infinite space of nature and the finite, artificial space of mankind:

Evening Sky with Luminous Cloud Streaks, 1907, Piet Mondrian
1907
1911
Study of Trees 1, 1912, Piet Mondrian
1912

2. THE ONE AND THE MANY

The unity of opposites (1912) re-appears in the centre of an abstract faintly colored composition (1913) and then in a brightly colored painting (1919). Unity opens up to a variety of relationships between horizontal and vertical (1913) and to an ever-changing combinations of colors (1919). The one opens up to the many:

Study of Trees 1, 1912, Piet Mondrian
1912
Composition II, 1913, Piet Mondrian
1913
Checkerboard Composition with Light Colors, 1919, Piet Mondrian
1919

3. OUR REALITY AND TRUE REALITY

The white central rectangle expressing unity (1919) becomes a white square field in the center of an asymmetric composition (1920). The square form expresses a balanced relationship between horizontal and vertical which is the starting point and the guiding thread of the subsequent evolution process:

1919
Composition B, 1920, Piet Mondrian
1920
Composition with Yellow, Red, Black. Blue and Gray, 1920, Piet Mondrian
1920

4. A NEW PLASTIC LANGUAGE

Variable square proportions were to inform nearly all the compositions produced by Mondrian after 1920:

Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1927, Piet Mondrian
1927
Composition en Rouge, Bleu et Jaune, 1930, Piet Mondrian
1930
1931
Composition with Blue and Yellow, 1932, Piet Mondrian
1932
1932
Composition C, N. III, with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935, Piet Mondrian
1935

5. TOWARD ONE FINAL PAINTING

Between 1921 and 1942 the square form is a constant feature in a state of continuous evolution:

Composition in Black and White with Double Lines, 1934, Piet Mondrian
1934
Composition with Yellow, 1936, Piet Mondrian
1936
Composition N. 12 with Blue, 1937-42, Piet Mondrian
1937-42
New York City, 1942, Piet Mondrian
1942
Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43, Piet Mondrian
1942-43
Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942-44, Piet Mondrian
1942-44

The above is not just a superficial exploration of cold geometry for its own sake.

“Art conveys the deepest thought by means of the simplest form.” (Albert Einstein)