Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan
07 March 1872
; Amersfoort, Netherlands *
01 February 1944
; New York , United States *
1892 - 1944
An influential non-representational painter, Piet Mondrian’s art evolved over his lifetime into his own unique style, which he coined “neo-plasticism.” 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. He subscribed to two sets of 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 published his explanation of neo-plasticism in his art publication De Stijl (The Style) in 1917 and 1918.
Although his early work was representational, he slowly developed his artistic philosophy, his works slowly devolving first into cubism, then to pure abstraction and non-representation. After WWI, he flourished in the post-war atmosphere of Paris, which allowed him pure creative freedom. Upon the outbreak of WWII, and the approach of fascism, he moved to Manhattan, NY, where he spent the rest of his life. It was in his Manhattan studio where he felt most creative, and in which he created his great masterpieces.
Mondrian was an avid painter, and would paint until his hands blistered. Sometimes he made himself sick, and others he made himself cry from exhaustion. While in his Manhattan apartment, he rearranged large colored panels on his walls, and painted other portions, rearranging and moving the panels as he completed his canvas paintings, or as he completed periods of painting. He later said that his ever-changing surroundings in his Manhattan studio was the best space he ever inhabited. After his death, his friend Harry Holtzman carefully measured each of the panels on Mondrian’s walls and turned them into a traveling exhibition called Wall Works.
Today, Piet Mondrian’s legacy lives on in the fashions of Yves Saint Laurent, and the L’Oreal make-up line.