Mondrian

Mondrian at the Centre Pompidou (until the 21st of March) is a strange exhibition; firstly because the Mondrian exhibition is actually sandwiched within a DeStijl exhibition. If the genesis of Mondrian’s work is pretty much correctly represented within the DeStijl framework, then (curiously) nothing, or next to nothing is mentioned about their rupture in 1927.

 

I am far from being a specialist of this school; yet it occurred to me (but nothing in the exhibition confirmed this, and I did not obtain the catalogue) – that the choice by Mondrian to do “painting and nothing else” (or almost nothing else; some ‘dollhouses’ were reconstructed) was without a doubt at odds with the other DeStijl members. They explored many different art forms (both major and minor): architecture, textiles, stained glass, typography, design, furniture and cinema; all in a cheerful social effervescence that is antipodal to Mondrian’s theosophical Puritanism.

 

Then there was the pleasure of seeing the evolution of Mondrian’s paintings- from figuration to abstraction (this was the title of an excellent exhibition at the Fondation Maeght 5 years ago. It was very educational and insightful, from what I recall). Amongst the very few figurative artworks, I loved the Landscape of dunes from 1911 (pictured). The coloured strips of ground and the celestial streaks compose a premonitory sense of geometry. His art then evolved between symbolism, fauvism and cubism- and the Tree: twisted, gnarled, nervous and tragic; became a recurring motif in his work (Red Tree, 1999).


 

When we arrive to his trademark compositions from the1920s, the firsts are pure, harmonious and balanced (Composition, 1921).  Next, from 1922, instability emerges when a giant rectangle occupies the sum and substance of the canvas space; thereby pushing the coloured zones to the outer limits whilst creating a tension and rupture quite different to his previous work (Composition, 1922). Could I confess that after a while I accelerated through these,  getting  less of a sense of enjoyment out of these countless compositions? A bit of weariness emerges, especially at the end of the 1930s’ greyness and monotony.

 

And then suddenly, a canvas explodes and crashes like cymbals. It is New York City (1942); a vibrant, rhythmic, dazzling composition. Alas, it is the only account of his work here after he left France in 1939. Boogie-Woogie didn’t come (neither did Broadway nor Victory), or any of his artwork after 1939. What a pity!

 

With regards to DeStijl, my eager attention on Mondrian left me a little too distracted. Perhaps, I’ll come back. Here is a single canvas by Bart van der Leck, titled the Dockers (1916) . It has an ‘Egyptian’ quality or style; with figures that are neither frontal nor in profile, and the depiction of successive planes without perspective.

 

Mondrian at the Centre Pompidou (until the 21st of March) is a strange exhibition; firstly because the Mondrian exhibition is actually sandwiched within a DeStijl exhibition. If the genesis of Mondrian’s work is pretty much correctly represented within the DeStijl framework, then (curiously) nothing, or next to nothing is mentioned about their rupture in 1927.

 

I am far from being a specialist of this school; yet it occurred to me (but nothing in the exhibition confirmed this, and I did not obtain the catalogue) – that the choice by Mondrian to do “painting and nothing else” (or almost nothing else; some ‘dollhouses’ were reconstructed) was without a doubt at odds with the other DeStijl members. They explored many different art forms (both major and minor): architecture, textiles, stained glass, typography, design, furniture and cinema; all in a cheerful social effervescence that is antipodal to Mondrian’s theosophical Puritanism.

 

Then there was the pleasure of seeing the evolution of Mondrian’s paintings- from figuration to abstraction (this was the title of an excellent exhibition at the Fondation Maeght 5 years ago. It was very educational and insightful, from what I recall). Amongst the very few figurative artworks, I loved the Landscape of dunes from 1911 (pictured). The coloured strips of ground and the celestial streaks compose a premonitory sense of geometry. His art then evolved between symbolism, fauvism and cubism- and the Tree: twisted, gnarled, nervous and tragic; became a recurring motif in his work (Red Tree, 1999).

 

When we arrive to his trademark compositions from the1920s, the firsts are pure, harmonious and balanced (Composition, 1921). Next, from 1922, instability emerges when a giant rectangle occupies the sum and substance of the canvas space; thereby pushing the coloured zones to the outer limits whilst creating a tension and rupture quite different to his previous work (Composition, 1922). Could I confess that after a while I accelerated through these,  getting  less of a sense of enjoyment out of these countless compositions? A bit of weariness emerges, especially at the end of the 1930s’ greyness and monotony.

 

And then suddenly, a canvas explodes and crashes like cymbals. It is New York City (1942); a vibrant, rhythmic, dazzling composition. Alas, it is the only account of his work here after he left France in 1939. Boogie-Woogie didn’t come (neither did Broadway nor Victory), or any of his artwork after 1939. What a pity!

 

With regards to DeStijl, my eager attention on Mondrian left me a little too distracted. Perhaps, I’ll come back. Here is a single canvas by Bart van der Leck, titled the Dockers (1916). It has an ‘Egyptian’ quality or style; with figures that are neither frontal nor in profile, and the depiction of successive planes without perspective.

Texte en français

 

 

Credits: Photo of van der Leck by author. Bart van der Leck was represented by the l’ADAGP, and the reproduction of his artwork will be removed from this blog at the end of the exhibition period. All reproductions of Mondrian artworks featured on this blog are copyrighted material from the Mondrian Trust, and they will also be removed from this post at the end of the exhibition period.

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