Piet Mondrian Artist Biography

Piet Mondrian was expert in conveying emotion with the bare minimum of detail. His minimal style of abstraction can be seen in relation to his study of Theosophy in his quest for the 'Absolute'. His influence can be seen not only on other artists but also on the media of industrial design and advertisements from the 1930s onwards.

Piet Mondrian was born in 1872, in Amersfoort and grew up with his older sister and three younger brothers in a Calvinist family.

In 1892, Piet Mondrian moved to Amsterdam to study art at the Rijksacademie. Five years later, he was submitting still-lifes and landscapes to membership-only shows at ‘Arti et Amicitiae’ and at ‘Sint Lucas’, Netherlands, two artists' groups in Amsterdam. During this time, he made a living by painting portraits and copying museum art, alongside occasional commissioned work.

In 1898, his landscape painting began to develop as he moved away from The Hague School-type and started focusing on structure and rhythm. In the way, he concentrated on composition this early work can be seen to prefigure his abstract work. For example, 'Village Church' (c.1898). Between 1907 and 1910, influenced by Symbolism he produced work such as 'Devotion' (1908) and 'Passion-flower' (1908) portraying women with sad expressions and flowers next to their heads. He alternated between figurative and landscape work, experimenting with many different styles.

In 1911, he moved to Paris where he encountered Cubism for the first time, a movement that was to lead him to produce a series of paintings revolving around trees, for example 'Flowering Apple Tree' (1912).

In 1914, Piet Mondrian returned to Holland and continued his study of abstraction. Three years later, he founded De Stijl with Theo van Doesburg, a movement searching for laws of balance in both art and life. The abstract style they developed became known as Neo-Plasticism. The technique restricted the use of shapes purely to rectangles and with a limited color palette of black, white and grey, plus the primaries.

In 1919, Piet Mondrian moved to Paris where he remained for 19 years. In 1931, he joined a group of abstract painters and sculptors known as Abstraction-Creation. The group arranged exhibitions and published an annual of their works which generally centred on geometrical abstraction.

By 1938, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Piet Mondrian fled to London then two years later to New York. It was here that he developed a more energetic style inspired by his passion for jazz and dancing, as can be seen in the colourful 'Broadway Boogie-Woogie' (1942-1943).

Piet Mondrian was an influential non-representational painter, evolved over his lifetime into his own unique style, which he coined “neo-plasticism.” Although his early work was representational, he slowly developed his artistic philosophy, devolving his work first into cubism, then to pure abstraction and non-representation.

This art was not based on outside artistic influences or on typical techniques, but was instead Mondrian’s interpretation of his deeply felt philosophical beliefs; theosophy, a religious mysticism which sought to help humanity achieve perfection, and anthroposophy, which held that the spiritual world was directly accessible through the development of the inner self. His works were thus aimed at helping humanity through aesthetic beauty and breaking from a representational form of painting.  He was an avid painter who painted until his hands blistered. Today, Piet Mondrian’s legacy lives on in the fashions of Yves Saint Laurent, and the L’Oréal make-up line. 

Piet Mondrian died of pneumonia on 1 February 1944 and was buried at the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. On 3 February 1944, a memorial was held for Mondrian at the Universal Chapel on Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan.

More art prints from Piet Mondrian

Composition No 2 by Piet Mondrian
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