Thursday, 23 November 2017

De Stijl and Mondrian


Thanks for popping in.

The second of the November Art Talks was about Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl Art Movement.

The man behind De Stijl - art for an ideal society that was functional and in harmony - was Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931).  He was known for his stained glass window designs.  He met Pier Mondrian in 1915 and others like Bart van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld and de Stijl was born.

Stained glass window by Theo van Doesburg
Mondrian (1872-1944) was born in Amersfoort in the Netherlands, his father was a teacher.  He graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam and moved to the Hague.  He went to France in 1914, went back to the Hague after the war and then back to Paris, to the UK for a year and then to the US in 1940.

View of Winterswijk

He started painting influenced initially by The Hague school, which in turn was influenced by the Barbizon school, painting in the open air although the Hague school incorporated cities, seaside and working men rather than just the land.  The Dutch painters focussed on what gave wealth to the city rather than painting the city itself. Mondrian loved painting village landscapes.  He was influenced by Van Gogh and tried to simplify his work and his paintings of the dunes in Zeeland are even more simplified, have geometrical shapes and uses colour to give depth.  His work was becoming more abstract.

When he went to Paris he was influenced by Picasso and the Cubists.

In 1916 he joined a theosophical society which strove for harmony and looked for the inner meaning of life, trees were important to the society and colours had specific meanings, mainly primary colours used and shapes were important.

The De Stijl group used only vertical and horizontal lines, flat primary colours with, black grey and white being absence of colour and were only there to emphasise the other colours, to create the essence of life, optimism especially important following WWI, harmony, monumentality.

Composition with red, yellow, black,grey and blue
Leck left the movement as he found it too restricting and Van Doseburg and Mondrian fell out when the former started to use diagonal lines which were not considered to represent life.

Not only were they interested in painting but also furniture and architecture which aimed to provide comfort and a spirit of well being.

Schroeder House 1924 Utrecht by Rietveld

Towards the end of his life,  Mondrian experimented with coloured sticky tape and then painted his pictures.

Broadway Boogie-Woogie 1942-4  This represents the rhythm of New York, the noise and music

Mondian's work is referred to as neoplasticism - finding the essence of life free from description and shape, abstraction of form and colour as straight lines and primary colour.

Just a few notes from the talk.



  1. Your talks sound fascinating too. In the year two class I taught we used Mondrian as an influence to create works on the computer. Using boxes and the fill tool we made very convincing Mondrian style paintings. The children loved their creations and they always looked good on the wall displays! B x

    1. That's a great idea. I have memories of Matisse and his Snail for the same reason, happy days. x

  2. Though not a big fan of modern art I do like the windows.

    1. The window is great, it must look wonderful with the sun shining through.