Pieter Cornelis (Piet) Mondriaan (after 1912 Mondrian; March 7, 1872 – February 1, 1944) was a Dutch painter starting in Dutch impressionism but soon developping abstraction in his landscape paintings. He became leader and inspirator of the De Stijl art movement and group, together with Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian proclamed the 'Neo Plasticism' as a completely new, abstract art.
Quotes of Piet Mondrian
- Masculine and feminime, vertical and horizontal.
- Written note beneath a drawing in his sketchbook, 1910/11; Quoted in: Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 11
- The surface of things gives enjoyment, their interiority gives life.
- Written note in his sketchbook, around 1911; Quoted in: Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 11
- As you can see this is a composition of vertical and horizontal lines which will (in an abstract manner) have to express the idea of rising upwards, of magnitude. This is the same idea which used, for example, to be the guiding principle in the construction of cathedrals. Since only the manner of expression and not the representation has to express this general idea, I have not given any title. An abstract human mind will, of itself, receive the intended impression. I always confine myself to expressing the general.
- Letter to Theo van Doesburg, Amsterdam, 1915; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 234 (translation Daphne Woodward)
- Forgive me of saying so, but good things just have to grow very slowly. I say this in connection with your plans.. ..for launching a journal. I do not think that the time is favourable for it. More must be achieved in art in that direction. I hardly know anyone who is really creating art in our style, in other words, art which has arrived.. ..(i.e. you will have to include in it (the journal, fh) what is not consistent with our ideas.
- Letter to Theo van Doesburg, Amsterdam, Novemer 20, 1915; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 234 (translation Daphne Woodward)
- This new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.
- Natural Reality and Abstract Reality, Piet Mondrian, 1919 : On neo-plasticism
De Stijl, No. 1, Oktober 1917
De Stijl, No. 1, Oktober 1917; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963. (translation Daphne Woodward)
- The cultivated man of today is gradually turning away from natural things, and his life is becoming more and more abstract. Natural (external) things become more and more automatic, and we observe that out vital attention fastens more and more on internal things.. ..Modern man –although a unity of body, mind and soul – exhibits a changed consciousness: every expression of his life has today a different aspect, that is, an aspect more positively abstract. It is the same with art. Art will become the product of another duality in man: the product of cultivated externality and of inwardness deepened and more conscious. As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form.
- pp. 234-236
- The new plastic idea cannot, therefore, take the form of concrete representation, although the latter does always indicate the universal to a degree, or at least conceal it within. This new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.
- p. 236
- The new plastic idea thus correctly represents actual aesthetic relationships. To the modern artist, it is a natural consequence of all the plastic ideas of the past. This is particularly true for painting, which is the art least bounded to contingencies. The picture can be a pure reflection of life, in its deepest essence.
- p. 236
1920s and later
- Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life’. I recognized that the equilibrium of any particular aspect of nature rests on the equivalence of its opposites.
- Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art, Piet Mondrian, New York: Wittenborn 1945, p. 13; as quoted in Astract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 55
- Neo-Plasticism has its roots in Cubism. It could just as easy be called the Painting of Real Abstraction. Since the abstract can be expressed by a plastic reality.. ..It achieves what all painting has tried to achieve but has been able to express only in a veiled manner. By their position and their dimension as well as by the importance of given to colour, the coloured planes express in a plastic way only relations and not forms. Neo-Plasticism imparts to these relations an aesthetic balance and thereby expresses universal harmony.. ..For the moment what art had discovered must still be limited to art itself. Our environment cannot yet be realized as a creation of pure harmony. Art today is at the very point formerly occupied by religion. In its deepest meaning art was the transposition of the natural (to another plane); in practice it always sought to achieve harmony between man and untransposed nature. Generally speaking, so do Theosophy and Anthroposophy, although these already possessed the original symbol of balance. And this is why they never were able to achieve equivalent relations, that is to say true harmony. (1921/23)
- 'Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964 p. 83-85
- Art on the contrary sought this harmony in practice (of art itself). More and more in its creations it has given inwardness to that what surrounds us in nature, until, in Neo-Plasticism, nature is no longer dominant. This achievement of balance may prepare the way for the fulfilment of man and signal the end of (what we call) art. (1921/23)
- , Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 85
- Cubism did not accept the logical consequences of its own discoveries; it was not developing abstraction towards its own goal, the expression of pure reality.
- Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 50
- Observing sea, sky and stars, I sought to indicate their plastic function through a multiplicity of crossing verticals and horizontals. Impressed by the vastness of Nature, I was trying to express its expansion, rest and unity.
- Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 50
- By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created.
- Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 117
Quotes about Piet Mondrian
- sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
- The problem which Piet Mondrian undertook to solve in nr. 116 [a new painting of Mondrian, exhibited in a group-exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum in 1915, Amsterdam] was handled very successfully. This work spiritually dominates all others. It gives the impression of Repose; the repose of the soul. Its pre-determined structure embodies 'becoming' rather than 'being'. This represents a true element in art, for art is not 'being', but 'becoming'. The idea of 'becoming' has been expressed in black and white.. ..Through years of hard work my own experiences have led me, before I came to know the theories of Uexkuell or Picasso, to prefer the use of the white-black-grey palette in works of a purely spiritual content...
- Theo van Doesburg (1915), in the Dutch art-magazine: 'Eenheid' (in Dutch: Unity) no. 283, 6 November 1915; as quoted in Theo van Doesburg, Joost Baljeu, Studio Vista, London 1974, p. 105
- Piet Mondrian realizes the importance of line. The line has almost become a work of art in itself; one can not play with it when the representation of objects perceived was all-important. The white canvas is almost solemn. Each superfluous line, each wrongly placed line, any color placed without veneration or care, can spoil everything – that is, the spiritual.
- Theo van Doesburg (1915), in the Dutch art-magazine: 'Eenheid' no. 283, 6 November 1915; as quoted in Theo van Doesburg, Joost Baljeu, Studio Vista, London 1974, pp. 105-106
- Perhaps it was his return to Paris [In June 1919 Piet Mondrian returned from The Netherlands to Paris] that was needed to provide him with fresh new possibilities in his work. Invigoration. His most recent work is without composition. The division of the picture plane is modular. That means ordinary rectangles, all the same size. The only contrast is in the colour. In my view, this runs counter to his theory concerning the abolition of position and dimension. This is in effect equality of position and dimension.
- Theo van Doesburg (1919), quote from his letter to the Dutch modern architect Oud, 24 June 1919; as quoted in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 126
- What greater challenge today.. ..to disorder and insensitivity; what greater propaganda for integration than this emotionally intense, dramatic division of space? [quote in 1943, discussing the art of Piet Mondrian]
- Ad Reinhardt (1943), in Abstract Expressionism, Davind Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd London, 1990, p. ?
- It is the greatest injustice done to Piet Mondrian that people who are plastically blind see only decorative design instead of the plastic perfection which characterizes his work. The whole De Stijl group from which Mondrian's art was derived must be considered a protest against such blindness.
- Hans Hofmann (1948), in "Search for the Real in the Visual Arts", p. 47
- I like Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Tatlin and Gabo; and I admire some of Kandinsky's paintings very much. But [Piet] Mondrian, that great merciless artist, is the only one who had nothing left over.
- Willem de Kooning (1951), in his speech 'What Abstract Art means to me' on the symposium 'What is Abstract At' - at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 5 February, 1951, n.p.
- No, the artists are in a state of belated Age of Reason. They want to get hold of things, like Mondrian. He was a fantastic artist, but now when we read his ideas and his idea of Neo-Plasticism [= De Stijl ] – pure plasticity – it’s kind of silly, I think. I mean, not for him, but I think one could spend one’s life having this desire to be in and outside at the same time. He could see a future life and a future city – not like me, who am absolutely not interested in seeing the future city. I’m perfectly happy to be alive now.
- Well, Mondrian is absolute, and is pure, and those are real aspirations of our [American Abstract Expressionism art]. When I say 'pure', I don't mean 'clean' . I don't think Mondrian himself did; I knew him when he was here [New York] during the war. He went to an exhibition by the Surrealist, Tanguy, and was asked what he thought, and he said he would like Tanguy's pictures better if they were dirtier, that for him they were to clean... ..I think he meant that when they were to 'clean', they were essentially lifeless, statuesque, unrevised. As for me, I must say, Mondrian's painting is intensely rhythmic, warm, passionate - restricted as the means ostensibly seem to me.
- Robert Motherwell (1960), in an interview with David Sylvester, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'Metro', 1962; as quoted in Interviews with American Artists, by David Sylvester; Chatto & Windus, London 2001, p. 81
- It was this apparent paradox, by which the so-called [[Abstract Expressionism|Abstract Expressionists.. ..are really far more sympathetic to wards Mondrian than towards Kandinsky. The Mondrian thing seems paradoxical only in relation to the Mondrian that people interpreted in the thirties as a rather cold and static artist. Maybe it is only more recently that we have realised about the blinking that takes place at the intersection of the lines, of shuttling back and forth and so on, that Mondrian becomes in some ways a more dynamic artist than Kandinsky.
- * Total abstraction was something intellectual to me. I didn’t feel it; I could talk about Mondrian but it didn’t occur to me to do it. [around 1950].
- Helen Frankenthaler (1965), in an 'Interview with Helen Frankenthaler', Henry Geldzahler; Artforum' 4. no. 2, October 1965, p. 36
- I remember that in arguing with Piet Mondrian (in Paris 1920's), he opposed art to nature saying that art is artificial and nature is natural. I do not share this opinion. I do not think that nature is in natural opposition to art. Art's origins are natural.
- Jean Arp (1966), in Jours effeuillés: Poèmes, essaies, souvenirs, Gallimard, Paris 1966, p. 359
- Mondrian? His mind was too subtle. He worked in the light. I work in the darkness.. .Mondrian is the Buddha of painting. I saw him once. You wondered how a man could radiate such charisma.
- Bram van Velde, in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign; 2 April 1967; p. 62
- Perhaps he [Mondrian] was too faithful to a single discovery. And perhaps that kind of painting was right for the period. But now peace and harmony are no longer possible. There is only anguish.
- Bram van Velde, in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign; 16 July 1970; p. 77
- Mondrian.. .The constructivists?.. .They had certainties. They wanted a stable basis to work on, but I’m afraid that that was enormous arrogance on their part. Nothing is stable and no certainties are possible.
- Bram van Velde, in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign; 11 August 1972; p. 90