Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944) is considered one of the most influential artists of his time as one of the pioneers of abstract art. But before he discovered his unique signature,
he went through a drastic style development during his career. Mondrian started his artist career with impressionist paintings, after which he developed in Symbolism and Cubism. Ultimately, his views on art resulted in an abstract form of painting in which, from 1925, he depicted nature in abstract horizontal and vertical lines and areas of color.
Born in Amersfoort, he moved to Winterswijk at the age of eight, where his father became head teacher at the Christian School. Christian thought played an important role in the family, which is reflected in Mondrian's almost devout devotion to achieving the ideal of perfect purity, harmony and austerity in his work. Mondriaan goes through primary school, two years of secondary school and obtains the certificate of Primary and Secondary Education Signature. In between, he also takes lessons from his uncle Frits Mondriaan. In 1892 he moves to Amsterdam to study painting at the Rijksacademie. He becomes a member of the artists' association Arti et Amicitiae en Sint Lucas, which gives him access to the official exhibition circuit. These years are characterized by hard work to provide for its maintenance and numerous relocations.
Mondrian's early work in the years just before the turn of the century consists of landscapes in the tradition of the Hague and Amsterdam School. Around his thirties he became interested in basic geometric shapes. His philosophy is that this form language is the basis of everything, despite the fact that it never occurs as such in nature. He immersed himself in the teachings of Theosophy and in 1908 became a member of the Theosophical Society. In Domburg he meets Jan Toorop, who awakens his interest in Symbolism. He paints portraits of women and flowers – his triptych Evolution is a clear reflection of his theosophical thoughts and depicts the three stages of spiritual awakening.
Between 1900 and 1911, in the vicinity of Abcoude, he painted a series of landscapes with mills in the vicinity of the river Gein. In these landscapes he focuses more and more intensively on the effect of light, sun or moon. The compositions gradually become more daring: 'cut off' windmills and a strong austerity of the composition with horizontals and verticals. His style developed in these years from naturalistic-impressionistic to pre-luministic. Influenced by the work of Jan Sluijters, among others, his color palette changes into a powerful, eventually almost Fauvist color range. The works that were created in the first decade of the 20th century have been important for the further development of his artistry, because they are also a prelude to his innovative geometric-abstract art. Mondriaan gradually detaches himself from visible reality and experiments with colours, image construction and simplification of forms
From 1911 to 1914, Mondrian lives and workes in Paris, where he became acquainted with the experimental avant-garde and immediately changed his name to Mondrian. He feels enormous admiration for the brutality of the Fauvism of artists such as Henri Matisse and Kees Van Dongen. But he is even more attracted to the cubism of Picasso and Fernand Léger, who strongly influence his work. In August 1914, when the First World War breaks out, Mondrian is in the Netherlands and cannot return to Paris. But the development of his work continues in contact with Theo van Doesburg and Bart van der Leck, who invite him to contribute to a new art magazine, De Stijl, which was founded in 1917. The artists who joined De Stijl sought ways to achieve the greatest possible harmony and universality in art, which could only be achieved through the use of geometric shapes. The design language was limited to rectangles, squares and lines in the primary colors red, yellow and blue, supplemented by white, gray and black. Mondriaan publishes several articles and introduces the term neoplasticism in them. At the same time, he puts his words into action and from 1917 onwards all naturalism disappears from his work and gradually every movement and depth disappears.
In 1919 Mondrian returns to Paris, where he focuses on the principles of Nieuwe Beelding (New Plasticism) or neoplasticism. He breaks with Van Doesburg who sticks to secondary colors and Mondriaan embroiders on the diamond-shaped canvases he already made in the Netherlands. With his compositions of primary colours, horizontal and vertical lines and even color areas, he wants to evoke a sense of harmony, which is connected with the greater cosmic equilibrium. He wants to create absolute 'beauty'. From 1921, the well-known broad black lines appear in his work, which delimit the rectangular and square surfaces of the compositions. His most famous works, compositions in red, yellow and blue with horizontal and vertical lines, appear from 1925.
Like many European artists, Mondrian left for New York just before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1940. There he is inspired by jazz and boogie woogie music and continues to develop new ideas. His last painting, the famous Victory Boogie Woogie that he made in 1944, is more playful than the last strict works he made in Europe. It consists of colored blocks – in line with his last line of thought that a painted line is not essentially different from a painted surface. Unfortunately, he has not been able to expand on this latter line of thought. On February 1, 1944, he died of pneumonia, leaving the canvas unfinished. Mondrian's oeuvre with its almost linear stylistic development has led to a revolution in painting. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of pure abstract painting, the direction taken by the avant-garde from the last phase of modern art.