| Mondrian, Piet Biography
Dutch oil painter, who carried abstraction to its furthest limits. Through radical simplification of composition and color, he sought to expose the basic principles that underlie all appearances.
Born in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, on March 7, 1872, Piet Mondrian embarked on an artistic career over his family's objections, studying at the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts. His early artworks, through 1907, were calm landscapes painted in delicate grays, mauves, and dark greens. In 1908, under the influence of the Dutch painter Jan Toorop, he began to experiment with brighter colors; this represented the beginning of his attempts to transcend nature. Moving to Paris in 1911, Mondrian adopted a cubist-influenced style, producing analytical series such as Trees (1912-1913). He moved progressively from seminaturalism through increased abstraction, arriving finally at a style in which he limited himself to small vertical and horizontal brushstrokes.
In 1917 Mondrian and the Dutch painter Theo van Doesburg founded De Stijl magazine, in which Mondrian developed his theories of a new art form he called neoplasticism. He maintained that art should not concern itself with reproducing images of real objects, but should express only the universal absolutes that underlie reality. He rejected all sensuous qualities of texture, surface, and color, reducing his palette to flat primary colors. His belief that a canvas should contain only planar elements led to his abolition of all curved lines in favor of straight lines and right angles. His masterly application of these theories led to such works as Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1937-1942, Tate Gallery, London), in which the oil painting, composed solely of a few black lines and well-balanced blocks of color, creates a monumental effect out of all proportion to its carefully limited means.
When Mondrian moved to New York City in 1940, his style became freer and more rhythmic, and he abandoned severe black lines in favor of lively chain-link patterns of bright colors, particularly notable in his last complete masterwork, Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942-1943, Museum of Modern Art, New York City).
Mondrian died in New York on February 1, 1944.
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