Colour and Form: Mondrian In His Studio


Mondrian No VI Composition No II

Grids comprised of primary colour blocks – repeated and resequenced – define Dutch painter Piet Mondrian’s exploration of abstraction and his career-spanning endeavour to “express pure relationships.”

One of many iconic artists that used Winsor & Newton, Mondrian’s work is currently showcased at Tate Liverpool.  The exhibition traces the development of the artist’s signature simplified visuals and offers an unprecedented level of insight into how the environment he created impacted upon the development of his thinking across the course of his work. 


 Composition B No II with Red, Piet Mondrian, 1935


It was in Paris, where the artist moved in 1911, that Mondrian first began to produce the paintings that are most instantaneously associated with his name: the blocks of primary red, blue and yellow, with grey tones separated by frame-like divisions – Mondrian referred to this genre as ‘Neo-Plasticism’. Via a to-scale reconstruction of Mondrian’s Paris studio at Tate Liverpool, one can see that this exploration into a new form of abstraction permeated his entire living space. His studio – mainly white, black, and blocked-off primary colours and geometric shapes – appears to be a walk-in version of one of his famous paintings.


 Reconstruction of Mondrian's Rue Depart Paris based on 1926 photo by Paul Delbo

Around 1919-20, Mondrian wrote, “I think it retards the development of a new concept of beauty if the artist turns his studio into a kind of museum of ancient art – and not usually of the best at that. This creates an atmosphere that is unsuited to the new and clings to the old. The layman follows the example of the artist. The contemporary artist must in every way lead the development of his time. This studio expresses something of the idea of the New Plastic.”

Mondrian’s New York studio, meanwhile, is digitally depicted alongside photographs and other paraphernalia from his Transatlantic crossing, such as the signed papers of the ship on which he travelled. The unique retrospective also offers a rare glimpse into lesser-seen, earlier art. With these pieces, his abstractions appear more literally, as ‘Church Façade’, which appears to have some characteristics of an observed church façade, such as arches and stone details.

This exhibition offers compelling, reflective material for artists familiar with the profound impact of environment upon creative production.

Mondrian And His Studios is at Tate Liverpool until October 5th 2014.

Images Courtesty of Tate Liverpool

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