Piet Mondrian

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photo of Piet Mondrian, 1922; in art-magazine De Stijl, Vol. 5, nr. 12)
re-model of Mondrian's studio in New York, c. 1943

Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan (after 1912: Piet Mondrian). (March 7, 1872 – February 1, 1944) was a Dutch painter starting in Dutch impressionism but soon started to develop abstraction from his landscape paintings. He became an inspiring leader of the De Stijl art movement and group, together with Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian proclaimed 'Neo Plasticism' as a completely new, Abstract art style.

Quotes of Piet Mondrian[edit]

chronologically ordered, after date of the quotes of Mondrian
Mondrian, 1899: 'Royal wax-candles factory', drawing on paper [1]; location: City Archives of Amsterdam
Mondrian, c. 1899: 'At the Patch brink in Winterswijk / Op de Lappenbrink te Winterswijk', pastel on paper; location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Mondrian, c. 1900: 'Self-portrait', oil-painting on canvas; location: The Phillips Collection Washington D.C.
Mondrian, c. 1901: 'Portrait of a Girl with flowers', oil on canvas
Mondrian, c. 1902-03: 'Truncated View of the Broekzijdse Molen on the Gein' [2], oil on canvas mounted on cardboard; location: MoMA New York
Mondrian, c. 1903: 'Oostzijdse Mill along the River Gein by Moonlight', oil-painting on canvas; location: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, room 3.1
Mondrian, 1905-06: 'Line of Trees in marshy Landscape, near Duivendrecht', chalk and watercolor-painting on paper; location: Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands
Mondrian, c. 1907: 'Mill in het Gein', oil-painting
Mondrian, c. 1907: 'Red Amaryllis with Blue background', watercolor-painting on paper
Mondrian, 1908: 'Devotion', oil-painting on canvas; location: Municipal Museum The Hague - quote of Mondrian, 1909: '..by giving the hair that sort of red, to tone down the material side of things, to suppress any thoughts about 'hair', 'costume', etc, and to stress the spiritual. I believe that color and line can do much towards this end.'
Mondrian, 1908-09: 'Chrysanthemum' [3], charcoal-drawing on paper; location: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York quote of Mondrian, c. 1912: 'I too find flowers beautiful in their exterior beauty, yet there is hidden within a deeper beauty.'
Mondrian, 1909: 'Anemones in a Vase', oil-painting on cardboard; location unknown
Mondrian, 1909: 'Dune III', oil-painting on cardboard; location: Municipal Museum The Hague - quote of Mondrian, 1909: 'I believe that in our period it is definitely necessary that, as far as possible, the paint is applied in pure colours, set next to each other in a pointillist or diffuse manner.'
Mondrian, 1909: 'Sea after sunset', oil-painting on cardboard; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, 1909: 'Lighthouse-tower near Westkapelle, ink-drawing on paper; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, 1911: 'Evolution (Triptychon)', oil-painting on canvas; location:Municipal Museum The Hague - quote of Mondrian, late 1910: '..the Catholic religion as it was originally, is the same as Theosophy, is it not? I remained broadly in agreement with Toorop, and I could tell that he goes to the depths, and that he is searching for the spiritual..
Mondrian, 1911: 'Gray Tree, 1911', oil-painting on canvas; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, 1912: 'Trees, 1912', oil-painting on canvas; location: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - quote of Mondrian, 1912: 'If the masculine is the vertical line, then a man will recognize this element in the rising line of a forest. - Woman.. sees herself in the recumbent lines of the sea, and her complement in the vertical lines of the forest.'
Mondrian, 1912+13: 'Composition, Trees II', oil-painting on canvas; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, c. 1913: 'Tree A / Boom A', oil-painting on canvas; location: Tate Modern London
Mondrian, 1914: 'Composition 8', location: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York
Mondrian, 1914: 'Tableau III (Composition in Oval', [4], oil-painting on canvas; location Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Mondrian, 1915: 'Composition No.10 (Pier and Ocean)', oil-painting on canvas; [5] - quote of Mondrian in a letter to Theo van Doesburg, 1915: '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.. .I always confine myself to expressing the general.
Mondrian, 1916: 'Composition', painting
Mondrian, 1917: 'Composition in color A', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1917: 'Windmill', oil-painting on canvas
Mondrian, 1917: 'Composition with Color Fields', oil-painting on canvas; location: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, room 31 Rotterdam - quote of Mondrian, 1917: 'As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form.'
Mondrian, 1918: 'Self-portrait' (he created in Laren, Netherlands and presented to Sal Slijper), oil-painting on canvas; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, 1919: 'Composition Checkerboard', pol on canvas
Mondrian, 1919: 'Composition - Light Color Planes with Grey Lines', painting
Mondrian, 1920: 'Composition A', oil-painting on canvas; location: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna Rome - quote of Mondrian, 1919: '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'
Mondrian, 1921: 'Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1921: 'Composition in red, yellow, blue and black', oil-painting on canvas; location: Municipal Museum The Hague
Mondrian, 1922: 'Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow, and Black', oil-painting
1923: photo of Piet Mondrian in his studio at Rue du Départ Paris, with Nelly van Doesburg, - Amsterdam, Privatcollection.
Mondrian, 1925: 'Tableau No. VIII', oil on canvas
Mondrian, 1927: 'Composition no. III with red, yellow, and blue', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1928: 'Composition with red, yellow and blue', oil-painting on canvas; location: Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein
Mondrian, 1930: 'Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow', oil-painting on canvas
Mondrian, 1933: 'Lozenge composition with yellow lines', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1935: 'Composition (n.1) gray-red', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1938/39: 'Composition No. 1 with Grey and Red, 1938', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1940-42: 'Composition 11 no. 11 with Blue, Red and Yellow', oil-painting
Mondrian, 1942: 'New York City, 1942' oil-painting
Mondrian, 1942-44: 'New York City II', oil-painting with tape
Mondrian, 1942-44: 'Victory Boogie Woogie', oil, tape , paper, charcoal and pencil on canvas, made in New York; location: Municipal Museum The Hague

1890's[edit]

  • I often sketched by moonlight {in the 1890's] - cows resting or standing immovable in flat Dutch meadows, or houses with dead, blank windows. I never painted these things romantically, but from the very beginning I was always a realist.
  • later Quote of Mondrian, about his 1890's; taken from 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 39

1900's[edit]

  • With that work [Mondrian is referring to his figurative painting 'Devotion' he painted in 1908, of a devotedly looking girl] I only envisaged a girl conceived devotedly.. ..and by giving the hair that sort of red, to tone down the material side of things, to suppress any thoughts about 'hair', 'costume', etc, and to stress the spiritual. I believe that color and line can do much towards this end; moreover, I should not wish to do without line.. .It is precisely the overall line of a thing which I find fundamentally important, and also, the colour.
    • Quote of Mondrian, in a letter to Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as cited in English translation, in Two Mondrian sketchbooks 1912 - 1914, ed. Robert P. Welsh & J. M. Joosten, Amsterdam 1969 p. 9
  • I believe that in our period it is definitely necessary that, as far as possible, the paint is applied in pure colours, set next to each other in a pointillist or diffuse manner. This is stated strongly, and yet it relates to the idea which is the basis of meaningful expression in form, as I see it. It seems to me that the clarity of ideas should be accompanied by a clarity of technique.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as cited in English translation, in Two Mondrian sketchbooks 1912 - 1914, ed. Robert P. Welsh & J. M. Joosten, Amsterdam 1969 p. 10
  • For the present at least [1909] I shall restrict my work to the ordinary world of the senses, since that is the world in which we still live. But nevertheless art even now form a transition to the finer regions, which perhaps I am incorrect in calling spiritual, for everything that has form is not yet spiritual, as I read somewhere. But it is nonetheless the path of ascension away from matter. Well dear Querido, with many heartfelt wishes, Piet Mondriaan.
    • Quote from Mondrian's letter to Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 36

1910's[edit]

  • He [ Jan Toorop, an older and famous Dutch religious painter] sees the Catholic faith as A. Besant, [a British Theosophiste and women's right activiste, then] views it in its primeval period: the Catholic religion as it was originally, is the same as Theosophy, is it not? I remained broadly in agreement with Toorop, and I could tell that he goes to the depths, and that he is searching for the spiritual.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to {{w|nl:Kees Spoor|Cornelis Spoor]], Domburg October 1910; Van Ginneken and Joosten, op. cit. (note 26), pp. 263; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 47
  • The first thing to change in my painting was the color [c. 1908-09]. I forsook natural color for pure color. I had come to feel that the colors of nature cannot be reproduced on canvas. Instinctively I felt that painting had to find a new way to express the beauty of nature.
  • Quote of Mondrian about 1905-1910; in 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 40
  • It was during this early period of experiment that I first went to Paris. The time was around 1910 when Cubism was in its beginnings. I admired Matisse, Van Dongen and the other Fauves, but I was immediately drawn to the Cubists, especially to Picasso and Léger. Of all the abstractionists (Kandinsky and the Futurists) I felt that only the Cubists had discovered the right path; and, for a time, I was much influenced by them.
  • Quote of Mondrian about 1910; in 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 41
  • 'Masculine and feminime, vertical and horizontal.
    • Quote, written note beneath a drawing in Mondrian's sketchbook, 1910/11; as cited in: Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 11
  • The surface of things gives enjoyment, their interiority gives life.
    • Written note in Mondrian's sketchbook around 1911; quoted in Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 11
  • You can so wonderfully be yourself here [in Paris].
    • Quote of Mondrian from his postcard to a Dutch girlfriend, Paris 1911 (written in his first week in Paris), by Mondrian's recent biographer Hans Janssen, of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague; as cited by Alastair Sooke, in 'Mondrian - the Joy of Being Square'; BBC culture, 10 July 2017
  • You must have heard that last autumn I almost got married, but I am glad I realized in time that it had been an illusion, all those beautiful things. Although I have always lived for art, I am also attracted to the beautiful in life and so I sometimes do things that seem strange for me.
    • Quote in an undated letter to Alleta de Jongh, Paris, c. Spring 1912; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 243, note 61
  • If the masc. [masculine] is the vertic. [vertical] line, then a man will recognize this element in the rising line of a forest; in the horizont. [horizontal] lines of the sea he will see his complement. Woman, with the horizont. line as element, sees herself in the recumbent lines of the sea, and her complement in the vert. lines of the forest.
    • [on his two paintings 'Sea' and 'Trees', both made in 1912
    • note in his sketchbook, undated but c. 1912; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 70
  • The principle of this art [as Mondrian proposes his view on modern art] is not a negation of matter, but a great love of matter, whereby it is seen in the highest, most intense manner possible, and depicted in the artistic creation.
    • quote from Mondrian's sketchbook II, 1912/13; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 78
  • We arrive at a portrayal of other things, such as the laws governing matter. These are the great generalities – Which do not change.
    • note in Mondrian's sketchbook II, 1912/13; as quoted in Two Mondrian sketchbooks 1912 - 1914, ed. Robert P. Welsh & J. M. Joosten, Amsterdam 1969 op. cit. (note 31), p. 61
  • A form must be of its own time if it is to be recognized: one cannot relate to what one is not or does not have – Thus all that is of the past is to be rejected.
    • quote in one of Mondrian's Paris' sketchbooks; as cited in Two Mondrian sketchbooks 1912 - 1914, ed. Robert P. Welsh & J. M. Joosten, Amsterdam 1969 op. cit. (note 31), p. 44
  • It is clear to me that this [his recent works and ideas on art] is art for the future. Futurism, although it has advanced beyond naturalism, occupies itself too much with human sensations. Cubism – which in its content is still too much concerned with earlier aesthetic products, and thus less rooted in its own time than Futurism – Cubism has taken a giant step in the direction of abstraction, and is in this respect of its own time and of the future. Thus in its content it is not modern, but in its effect it is.
    • In a letter to H. P. Bremmer (Dutch art-critic and buyer of his paintings), Paris 29 January 1914; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 75
  • You write you could never be a Theosophist. Well I suppose I could say the same thing, if you're referring to what most theosophists are. But that does not alter the fact that I believe that the principles of theosophy are true, and that it leads to clarity in one's spiritual development. Which means that we [= Mondrian ànd the catholic painter and his former teacher L. Schelfhout, after their reconciliation] quite agree on this point. Self-awareness is, in my view, of crucial importance to all human beings. I can understand how the Catholic doctrine may lead to vagueness, but Theosophy, which is a spiritual science, can never do so.
    • In a letter to Lodewijk Schelfhout, Paris 29 January 1914; as quoted in 'Beeldende Kunst: Opmerkingen over de tentoonstelling van den Modernen Kunstkring.. Der Ploeg (1912)', W. Steenhoff, p. 147
  • For when I construct lines and colour combinations on a flat surface, it is with the aim of portraying 'universally beauty' as consciously as possible. Nature (or that which I see) inspires me, provides me – as it does every painter – with the emotion by which I am moved to create something, but I want to approach the truth as closely as possible, abstracting everything until I come to the foundation – still only an outward foundation! – of things. It is for me a clear truth that one does not want to say something 'specific', it is then that one says what is most specific: the truth (which is of great universality).
    • Quote in a letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 81
  • I believe that it is possible by means of horizontal and vertical lines, constructed 'consciously' but not 'calculating', guided by a higher intuition and brought to harmony and rhythm – I believe that these fundamental aesthetic shapes – where necessary supplemented by lines in other directions or curved lines, make it possible to arrive at a work of art which is as strong as it is true. For anyone who sees more deeply, there is nothing vague about this; it is only vague for the superficial observer of nature. And 'chance' must be as far removed as 'calculation'. And for the rest it seems to me that it is necessary to keep breaking off the horizontal or vertical line: for if these directions were not countered by others, they would themselves come to signify something 'specific' and thus human.
    • Quote of Mondrian in a letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 81
  • And finally I must tell you that I was influenced [in Paris, c. 1912/13] by seeing the work of Picasso, whom I 'greatly' admire. I am not ashamed to speak of his influence, for I believe that it is better to be receptive to correction than to be satisfied with one's own imperfection, and to think that one is O so original! Just as so many painters think. And besides, I am surely totally different from Picasso, as one is generally wont to say.
    • Quote from Mondrian's letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 81
  • Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man.
    • Quote of Mondrian, 1914 from Wikipedia; as cited by Michel Seuphor, in 'Piet Mondrian: Life and Work;Abrams, New York, 1956, p. 117
  • It took me a long time to discover that particularities of form and natural colour evoke subjective states of feeling which obscure pure reality. The appearance of natural forms changes, but reality remains. To create pure reality plasticity, it is necessary to reduce natural forms to constant elements of form, and natural colour to primary colour. The aim is not to create other particular forms and colours, with all their limitations, but to work toward abolishing them in the interest of a larger unity.
  • later Quote of Mondrian, about 1910-1914; in 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 42
  • 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.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Theo van Doesburg, Amsterdam, 1915; as cited in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 234 (transl. Daphne Woodward)
  • The abstract human mind will have to receive the intended impression by its own means. I always confine myself to expressing the universal, that is, the eternal (closest to the spirit) and I do so in the simplest of external forms, in order to be able to express the inner meaning as lightly veiled as possible.
  • Forgive me of saying so, but good things just have to grow very slowly. I say this in connection with your [Doesburg's] plans.. ..for launching a journal [ De Stijl. 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 [in the planned art-Journal '[[w:De Stijl|De Stijl'] what is not consistent with our ideas.)
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Theo van Doesburg, Amsterdam, November 20, 1915; as cited in Letters of the great artists, (transl. Daphne Woodward)), Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 234
  • You should remember that my things are still intended to be paintings, that is to say, they are plastic representations, in and by themselves, not part of a building. Furthermore, they have been made in a small room. Also, that I use subdued colours for the time being, adapting myself to the present surroundings and to the outer world; this does not mean that I should not prefer a pure colouring. Otherwise you might think that I contradict myself in my work.
  • This year [Paris 1916-17, when Mondrian didn't finish hardly any painting] I have worked hard, and done much searching. A great deal of the old [way of painting] was due for a change. I was searching for a purer representation, which is why I wasn't satisfied with anything.. .The large black and white one ['Composition in line', 1917 - second state] has also been totally reworked, which I now regret; it would have been better to leave it as it was, and make a new one. But when one is searching, one does not now in advance just how to go about it.
  • Quote in a letter of 7 March 1917 to H. P. Bremmer; as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 91
  • Kandinsky points out [in his book On the Spiritual in Art] that Theosophy (in its true sense; not as it generally appears) is yet another expression of the same spiritual movement which we are now seeing in painting.
    • In 'De Nieuwe beelding in de Schilderkunst', Piet Mondriaan, 'De Stijl' No. 1, October 1917, p. 54
  • With regard to the diagonal, too, I am in complete agreement with you [with Theo van Doesburg ]. As soon as it appears together with straight [horizontal and vertical] lines, I believe it should be condemned.. .A while back I started a thing entirely in diamonds [diamond-shape] like this [his sketch in the letter of several diamond-forms]. I have to find out if it's possible: intellectually I'm inclined to say it is. There's something to be said for the idea, because perpendicular and flat lines can be seen everywhere in nature; by using a diagonal line I would be canceling that out. But I'm inclined to say that this cannot be combined with perpendicular and flat lines or with different kinds of slanting lines.
    • quote from a letter of Mondrian to Theo van Doesburg, undated, c. May 1918; as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 120
    • quote about the growing controversy between Mondrian and Van Doesburg. concerning the use of diagonal lines
  • And now about architects in general – I have to say it, Does [= Theo van Doesburg ], when 'De Stijl' was founded I left it up to you, but I never did agree with you when you ranked the architects alongside us, alongside our 'N.B.' (nl:Nieuwe Beelding / Neo-Plasticism) I knew then that it would lead to conflict.. .I cannot write about architecture, because I'm not an architect. I mean, I cannot write about the way I write about painting. Later on, though, I will put forward a few ideas.
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, Paris 9 July 1918; as quoted in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 139
  • The free placement of the means of expression is a privilege enjoyed exclusively by painting [different opinion with Theo van Doesburg]] ]. The sister arts, sculpture and architecture, are more restricted in this respect. The other arts enjoy even less scope in their employment of the means of expression.
    • Quote of Mondrian, c. Oct. 1917; as cited in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963 (transl. Daphne Woodward), p. 237
  • I remained there [in The Netherlands, 1914-18] for the duration of the war, continuing my work of abstraction in a series of church. facades, trees, houses, etc. But I felt that I still worked as an Impressionist and was continuing to express particular feelings, not pure reality. Although I was thoroughly conscious that we can never be absolutely 'objective', I felt that one can become less and less subjective, until the subjective no longer predominates in one's work. More and more I excluded from my painting all curved lines, until finally my compositions consisted only of vertical and horizontal lines which formed crosses, each separate and detached from the other. Observing sea, sky and stars, I sought to indicate their plastic function through a multiplicity crossing verticals and horizontals.
  • Quote of Mondrian about 1914-1918; in 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 43
    • Mondrian described his forced stay in The Netherlands; he could not return to Paris because of the start World War 1. in 1914
  • Dear Does [= Theo van Doesburg ], thank you for your letter.. .I was glad to know that in principle you are in favour of the diamond hanging [Mondrian's painting, he made in 1919, hanging in a rhombus] and I think that in practice you will approve of this method for some of my things. You look at the thing [painting] itself, and not only the outward appearance..
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, 3 March 1919; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 122
  • And then about whether or not to work from a given in nature. In my view, you [ Van Doesburg ] define this in a rather narrow sense. In the main, I do agree with you that the destruction of the natural, and it reconstruction, must be accomplished according to a spiritual image, but I believe that we should take a broad view here. What is natural does not have to be a representation of something. I'm now working on a thing that is a reconstruction of a starry sky ['Composition, Checkerboard Dark Colours', 1919] and yet I'm making it without a given from nature. Someone who says he uses a theme from nature can be right, but also someone who says he uses nothing at all.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Theo van Doesburg, 18 April 1919; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, pp. 125-6
  • I am searching for the proper harmony of rhythm and unchanging proportion, as I wrote in the article. And I cannot tell you how difficult it is. [Mondrian is reacting on Van Doesburg criticism of the strong domination of the regular grid in Mondrian's latest paintings]
    • In Mondrian's letter to Theo van Doesburg, Paris, 16 September 1919; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 171
  • My new installment [Mondrian moved to a new studio in Paris, where he applied the principles of Neo-Plasticism into the interior of his studio ] is about decoration, occasioned by my studio here, where I've set up a sort of display. I couldn't work directly on the walls, so I had to make do with pieces of painted cardboard. But in any case, I am now convinced that in this way it is possible to realize Neo-Plasticism in the interior. Of course I had to paint the furniture as well. It was worth the effort, as it has a favourable influence on my work.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Theo van Doesburg, 4 December 1919; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 141
  • The new vision.. ..does not proceed from a fixed point. Its viewpoint is everywhere, and not limited to any one position [in space]. Nor is it bound by space or time (in accordance with the theory of relativity) [of Einstein ]. In practice, the viewpoint is in front of the plane.. .Thus this new vision sees architecture as a multiplicity of planes; again flat. This multiplicity composes itself (in an abstract sense) into a flat image [in contrast to Theo van Doesburg who emphasized the dynamic position of the viewer – a central idea of Futurism in 1919].
    • Quote, 1919, as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, pp. 148

'Natural Reality and Abstract Reality', 1919[edit]

Quotes of Mondrian from his text 'Natural Reality and Abstract Reality' - an essay in Trialogue form, 1919; published in De Stijl magazine, 1919-1920
  • 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 our 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 a cultivated externality and of an 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.
  • The truly modern artist is aware of abstraction in an emotion of beauty; he is conscious of the fact that the emotion of beauty is cosmic, universal. This conscious recognition has for its corollary an abstract plasticism, for man adheres only to what is universal.
  • The new plastic idea cannot, therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation, although the latter does always indicate the universal to a degree, or at least conceals it within.
  • This new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and color. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and color, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary color.
  • These universal means of expression were discovered in modern painting by a logical and gradual progress toward ever more abstract form and color. Once the solution was discovered, there followed the exact representation of relations alone, that is to say, of the essential and fundamental element in any plastic emotion of the beautiful.
  • 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 of painting, which is the art least bound to contingencies. The picture can be a pure reflection of life in its deepest essence.
  • However, new plasticism is pure painting [in contrast with the opinion of Theo van Doesburg, then]: the means of expression still are form and color, though these are completely interiorized; the straight line and flat color remain purely pictorial means of expression.
  • The balanced relation is the purest representation of universality, of the harmony and unity which are inherent characteristics of the mind.
  • If, then, we focus our attention on the balanced relation, we shall be able to see unity in natural things. However, there it appears under a veil. But even though we never find unity expressed exactly, we can unify every representation, in other words, the exact representation of unity can be expressed; it must be expressed, for it is not visible in concrete reality.
  • ..the universal cannot be expressed purely so long as the particular obstructs the path. Only when this is no longer the case can the universal consciousness (intuition, that is) which is at the origin of all art, be rendered directly, giving birth to a purified art expression.
    This, however, cannot appear before its proper time. For it is the spirit of the times that determines artistic expression, which, in turn, reflects the spirit of the times. But at the present moment, that form of art alone is truly alive which expresses our present - or future - consciousness.
  • Composition allows the artist the greatest possible freedom, so that his subjectivity can express itself, to a certain degree, for as long as needed.
  • The rhythm of relations of color and size makes the absolute appear in the relativity of time and space.
  • In terms of composition the new plasticism is dualistic. Through the exact reconstruction of cosmic relations it is a direct expression of the universal; by its rhythm, by the material reality of its plastic form, it expresses the artist's individual subjectivity. It thus unfolds before us a whole world of universal beauty without thereby renouncing the human element.

1920's[edit]

  • They [Mondrian's friends in Paris, Tonia and Wim Stieltjes] are receptive to the new, although they do not know what it is. Thus I do occasionally feel that my effort has not been in vain. They find the idea of the N.B. [= Dutch: nl:Nieuwe Beelding / Neo Plasticism] sound and quite magnificent, but think that it will be quite a long time before people are ready for it.
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, Paris 1920; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 17
  • Ru-h-ru-h-ru-h-h-h-h. Pooh-ooh-ooh. Tick-tick-tick-tick. Pre. R-r-r-r-r-uh-h. Huh! Bang. Su-su-su-ur. Booh-a-ah. R-r-r-r. Pooh…multitude of sounds, all mixed together. Motorcars, buses, carts, carriages, people, lamp-posts, trees.. all mixed together; in front of cafés, shops, offices, posters, shop windows: multitude of things. Motion and standstills: different movement. Movement in space and movement in time. Multitude of images and all sorts of ideas. Images are veiled truths. All different truths form what is true. What is individual does not display all in a single image.. ..Ru-ru-ru-u-u. Pre. Images are boundaries. Multitude of images and all sorts of boundaries. Elimination of images and boundaries through all sorts of images. Boundary clouds what is true. Rebus: where is what is true? Boundaries are just as relative as images, as time and space. [Mondrian's poem has strong connections with 'dynamism' of Futurism]
    • Quote from his article 'The Grand Boulevards', Piet Mondriaan, in Dutch magazine 'De Groene Amsterdammer', 27 March 1920 pp. 4-5
  • The artist make things move, and is moved. He is policeman, motor car, everything at once. He who makes things move also creates rest. That which aesthetically is brought to rest is art.
    • In 'The Grand Boulevards' (of Paris), Piet Mondriaan, in 'De Groene Amsterdammer', 27 March 1920 pp. 4-5
  • A particular thought is not the same as a concentrated, creative thought, which is actually a feeling of inward-looking calm. The former produces a descriptive and morpho-plastic art, the latter a purely plastic manifestation. It is a question of the universal versus the individual. [Mondrian refers to André Gide's 'Dada', in 'Nouvelle Revue Francaise', 1 April 1920]
    • As quoted by the editors of 'The New Art – The New Life', op. cit. (Intro., note 1), p. 395, note 8
  • I am very glad that the criticism is what it is. It is all right that way. In complete opposition to our direction. Otherwise we [De Stijl-artists] would have nothing to do. I got another impression from your letter, but it is much better this way. There we see again: we have straightly to oppose the whole to-do, à part.
  • [Paris, as modern city] is beautiful in its perfection, but perfection means death and decay. Thus interfering with the process of dying is a crime against perfection: it stands in the way of a higher perfection.
    • Quote of Mondrian in 'Natuurlijke en abstracte realiteit', Piet Mondriaan, in 'De Stijl' III, 1920, p. 75
  • I believe that new art must differ totally in its manifestation from art as we know it, and people may be very reluctant to accept this. It is perhaps true to say, as someone did of cubism, that 'To sum up: since art is a need to create rather than imitate, the 'cubists' rousing themselves from the sentimentality born of the picturesque aspect of some natural spectacle or other, disengage the fleeting aspects from those which are constant and absolute, and with the aid of these two elements, construct a reality equivalent to that which they see before them'. Thus it is a question of finding the true equivalence (that, offered by Cubism is still not true equivalence), and this can only be 'that which is not nature at all, and is nonetheless one with nature [like in Neo-Plasticism / De Stijl ].
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to Lodewijk van Deyssel (who reacted as Dutch art critic on Mondrians essay: 'Le Néo-plasticisme'] Paris, February 1921; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 136
  • Having red several of your books, I wonder if you [ Rudolf Steiner, the German founder of anthroposophy] could find the time to read my brochure 'Le Néo-Plasticisme', which I am closing. I believe that Neo-Plasticism is the art of the foreseeable future for all true anthroposophists and theosophists. Neo-Plasticism creates harmony through the equivalence of the two extremes: the universal and the individual. The former by 'revelation', the latter by 'deduction'.. .It was impossible to bring about an equilibrium of relationships other than by destroying the 'form', and replacing it by a new 'universal' expressive means.
    • Quote from Mondrian's letter to Rudolf Steiner, c. 1921-23; as cited in Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co 1964, p. 83-85
  • 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 [into 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.
  • 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 fulfillment of man and signal the end of (what we call) art.
    • In a letter to Rudolph Steiner, c. 1921-23; as quoted in Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co., 1964, p. 85
  • It is of small importance whether De Stijl still exists as a 'group'; a new style was born, a new aesthetic created; it needs only to be understood – and cultivated.
    • Quote in: 'L'expression plastique nouvelle dans la peinture', Piet Mondriaan, 'Cahiers d'Art', 1, Paris, 1926, pp. 181-183
  • [jazz and Neo-Plasticism are] highly revolutionary phenomena: they are destructive constructive. They do not destroy the actual content of form, but rather deepen form only in order to elevate it to a new order. They break the bonds of 'form as individuality' in order to make possible a universal unity.
    • Quote in: 'De Jazz en de Neo-plastiek', Piet Mondriaan, in 'i 10', 1927 pp. 421-427
  • It may be noted that in Neo-Plastic art the crucial thing is the right angel, that is, the right-angle lines. And not whether the position of the lines is vertical or horizontal.. .So it is possible to make very beautiful things while placing the lines in a diagonal position.
    • In 'Neo-Plasticism: Home – Street – City', Piet Mondriaan, 'i 10', Jan. 1927
  • After your high-handed improvement(?) of 'Neo-plasticism' any co-operation is quite impossible for me.. .For the rest sans rancune - Piet Mondriaan.
    • Quote of Mondrian in a letter to Van Doesburg, 4 Dec. 1927; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 27
    • Mondrian's answer to Theo van Doesburg's retrospective article in 'De Stijl' magazine in 1929, where he wrote: 'By the lively and most articulate evolution the principles, developed mainly by P. Mondriaan in 'De Stijl' could not any longer be considered as generally characteristic of the opinion of the group.'

1930's[edit]

  • Well, I think my paintings are fast enough already...
    • Quote of Mondrian, 1930 reacting on Alexander Calder, as cited by by Mondrian's recent biographer Hans Janssen, of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague; as cited by Alastair Sooke, in 'Mondrian - the Joy of Being Square'; BBC culture, 10 July 2017
    • In 1930, the American sculptor Alexander Calder, (inventor of the mobile / moving sculpture) visited Mondrian in his studio in Paris. Calder said 'Maybe you should take all these red, yellow and blue elements off the canvas and let them hang in the air, so they can move'.
  • Though I do, of course agree with the principles you have mentioned, I am returning the paper unsigned, as I do not want to belong to a group. A group of people with one aim is not as yet a single-minded group and as this does not exist, a consistent group remains impossible. And a larger group only makes sense for joint exhibitions and for spreading ideas. I will therefore not participate in the other group either, but I have promised my collaboration in this respect. If you definitely want to form a group, you can always invite myself and others who are proved to be suitable. Only on such a basis I will collaborate with the other group as well.
  • the Cubists in Paris made me see that there was also a possibility of suppressing the natural aspect of form. I continued my research by abstracting the form and purifying the colour more and more. While working, I arrived at suppressing the closed effect of abstract form, expressing myself exclusively by means of the straight line in rectangular opposition; thus by rectangular planes of colour with white, grey and black. At that time, I encountered artists with approximately the same spirit, First Van der Leck, who, though still figurative, painted in compact planes of pure colour. My more or less cubist technique - in consequence still more or less picturesque - underwent the influence of his exact technique. Shortly afterwards I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Van Doesburg. Full of vitality and zeal for the already international movement that was called 'abstract', and most sincerely appreciative of my work, he came to ask me to collaborate in a review he intended to publish, and which he [Theo van Doesburg] was to call 'De Stijl'. I was happy with an opportunity to publish my ideas on art, which I was engaged in writing down: I saw the possibility of contacts with similar efforts.
  • To show that this end [of art by its dissolution into real life] is only a beginning, it is essential that.. ..the series of galleries [of the future museum of modern art] be followed by a room in which painting and sculpture will be realized by the interior itself.. ..demonstrating that what is lost for art is gained for life. This room could therefore be designed for use as a lecture room, a restaurant.. ..as a bar with an American jazz band. [Mondrian's reaction on a questionnaire (c. 1931?)]
    • Quote of Mondrian, as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 166
  • I very much like Arp's things. I consider him the only 'pure' artist after Neo/Plasticism.
    • In a letter to his friend architect Alfred Roth, 19 November 1931; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 204
  • The rectangular plane of varying dimensions and colours visibly demonstrates that internationalism does not mean chaos ruled by monotony but an ordered and clearly divided unity. In Neo-Plasticism, there are, in fact, very definite boundaries. But these boundaries are not really closed; the straight lines in rectangular opposition to one another constantly intersect, so that their rhythm continues throughout the whole work.. .These frontiers will be clearly defined but not 'closed'; there will be no customs, no work permits. 'Foreigners' will not be viewed as aliens.
    • Quote in 'The New Art – The New Life', Piet Mondrian, op. cit. Introd. Note 1., 1931
  • ..the Place de l'Opera [in Paris] gives a better image of the new life than many theories. Its rhythms of opposition, twice repeated in its two directions, realizes a living equilibrium through the exactness of its execution.
    • Quote of Mondrian before 1930; as cited in 'The New Art – The New Life', Piet Mondrian, op. cit. Introd. Note 1., 1931
  • I believe that at times such as these my modest efforts may be useful to mankind. I have shown how the new art has succeeded in bringing about pure relationships, and furthermore how these can be created in day-to-day life. [Mondrian tried to convince the Dutch publisher Stols to publish his new manuscript 'L'art et la vie']
    • In a letter to A. M. Stols, 26 March 1932; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 222
  • [the double line in his paintings] is still one line, as in the case of your grooves [= the wide sunken lines in the relief's, the artist Gorin made then].. .In my last things the double line widens to form a plane, and yet it remains a line. Be that as it may, I believe that this question is one of those which lie beyond the realm of theory, and which are of such subtlety that they are rooted in the mystery of 'art'. But all that is not yet clear in my mind.
    • Quote in Mondrian's letter to artist Gorin, [who stated that the double line broke the necessary symmetry], 31 January, 1934; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 215
  • Thus we must carefully distinguish between two kinds of reality, one which has an individual character, and one which has a universal appearance.. .It is, however, wrong to think that the non-figurative artist finds impressions and emotions received from the outside useless, and regards it even as necessary to fight against them.. .It is equally wrong to think that the non-figurative artist creates through 'the pure intention of his mechanical process', that he makes 'calculated abstractions' and that he wish to 'suppress sentiment not only in himself but in the spectator'.. .It is thus clear that he has not become a mechanic, but that the progress of science, of technique, of machinery, of life as a whole, has only made him into a living machine, capable of realizing in a pure manner the essence of art.
    • Quote in: 'Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art', Piet Mondrian (1937); in 'Documents of modern Art' ed. Robert Motherwell for Wittenborn, Schulz, New York 1945
  • The important task of all art is to destroy the static equilibrium by establishing a dynamic one. Non-figurative art demands an attempt of what is a consequence of this task, the destruction of particular form and the construction of a rhythm of mutual relations, of mutual forms, or free lines.. ..the law of the denaturalization of matter is of fundamental importance. In painting, the primary color that is as pure as possible realizes this abstraction of natural color.
    • Quote in: 'Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art', Piet Mondrian (1937); in 'Documents of modern Art' ed. Robert Motherwell for Wittenborn, Schulz, New York 1945
  • 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.
    • Quote in 'Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art', Piet Mondrian (1937), in 'Documents of modern Art', for Wittenborn, New York 1945, p. 13; as quoted in Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 55
  • Art will not only continue but will realise itself more and more. By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created.
    • quote, 1937; last lines of Mondrian's publication in 'Circle'; as cited in Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska; Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 117
  • Gradually I became aware [c. 1914-1918] that Cubism did not accept the logical consequences of its own discoveries; it was not developing abstraction towards its ultimate goal: the expression of pure reality.
  • Quote of Mondrian about the years 1914-18; in 'Mondrian, Essays' ('Plastic art and pure plastic art', 1937 and his other essays, (1941-1943) by Piet Mondrian; Wittenborn-Schultz Inc., New York, 1945, p. 10; as cited in De Stijl 1917-1931 - The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art, by H.L.C. Jaffé; J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 43
  • [..how the] landlord has had my room cleaned by Snow White and the squirrel has whitewashed the walls with his tail [signed:] - "Sleepy".
  • [...that the] dwarfes don't have enough time to help me themselves but send squirrels and birds. [referring to artist-friends who had helped him to settle in London.
  • [..but he had] a record with the music of the dwarfes on it, and quite often play it.

1940's[edit]

  • In his later works Doesburg tried to destroy static expression by diagonal position of his lines. But in this way the feeling of physic equilibrium which is necessary to enjoy a work of art is lost.
  • Now the only problem is to destroy these lines also through mutual opposition. ..[note under his letter]: I think that the destructive element is too much neglected in art.
    • Quote in his letter to Sweeney, 24 May 1943; as cited in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 240
  • Only now [1943] I become conscious that my work in black, white and little color planes has been merely 'drawing' in oil color. In drawing, the lines are the principal means of expressions.. .In painting, however, the lines are absorbed by the color planes; but the limitations of the planes show themselves as lines and conserve their great value.
    • note from his postcard, late May 1943; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 240
  • That is what we are against [the ancient-Greek ideas about art], because that is the key to the classic and tragic finality from which we must free ourselves.

'A New Realism', 1943-1945[edit]

Quotes from: Mondrian's essay 'A New Realism', written in 1943-44; published in the 1946 'American Abstract Artists (AAA) Yearbook', paged!; as cited in 'The Aesthetics of Piet Mondrian, by Arthur Chandler; California State University, San Francisco; MSS Information Corporation, New York, 1972
  • Only through intuition does a work rise above more or less subjective expression. Different periods produce different feelings and conceptions, and in each period men differ. Consequently different art expressions even in a single period are not only logical but a tribute to the general development of art. Intuition always finds the way of progress, which is continuous growth toward a clearer establishment of the content of art: the unification of man with the universe.
    • 'A New Realism', p. 17
  • Instinct reveals itself as self-concentrating, self-edifying it is limitation. Intuition produces self-denial, self-destruction; it is expansion. Culture can develop both. If it develops instinct, animal nature appears. Then culture destroys the intuitive capacity which men have even found in a primitive state.
    • p. 17
  • Human culture reveals an opposition: diminution of the instinctive faculties and development of the intuitive capacity. A cultivation of instinctive faculties produces human degeneration; a cultivation of intuitive capacities creates human progress.
    • p. 17
  • Environment, education, experience, make men conscious of passing reality but overwhelm their intuitive capacity when this is not very strong.
    • p. 17
  • Culture produces relative consciousness of the changeable expression of reality. When this consciousness is attained, a revolt takes place: the beginning of the deliverance from that expression of reality. Destruction of its limitation follows. The culture of the intuitive faculties has conquered. A clearer perception of constant reality is possible. A new realism appears.
    • p. 18
  • ..reality reveals itself by substantial, palpable forms, accumulated or dispersed in empty space.. ..these forms are part of that space and.. ..the space between them appears as form, a fact which evidences the unity of form and space.
    • p. 18
  • ..the elements of form have a particular aspect; every fragment, every plane, every line has its proper character.
    • p. 18

Quotes about Piet Mondrian[edit]

chronologically ordered, after date of the quotes about Piet Mondrian

1910 - 1930[edit]

  • ..the highly abstract cubism of Mondrian - a Dutchman - (it is well-known that cubism has made its entrance into the [Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam...) though a product of cubism, Mondrian in no way imitates this style. He seems above all to have undergone the influence of Picasso, but his personality has been remained intact. His trees and his female portrait display a sensitive cerebral quality. This kind of cubism clearly follows a different path from that of Braque and Picasso, artists whose 'recherche de matière' [research of the material as matter, what Mondrian deliberately ignores]] is presently arousing such interest.
    • Quote of Guillaume Appolinaire, in his chronicle of the exhibition of the 'Salon des Indépendants', Paris c. 1913-14; as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, pp. 19-20
  • The problem which Piet Mondrian undertook to solve in nr. 116 [a new painting of Mondrian, exhibited then 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..
    • Quote of Theo van Doesburg (1915), in the Dutch art-magazine: 'Eenheid' (Dutch for: Unity) no. 283, 6 November 1915; as cited 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.
    • Quote of Theo van Doesburg (1915), in the Dutch art-magazine: 'Eenheid' no. 283, 6 November 1915; as cited 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.
    • Quote of Theo van Doesburg (1919), from his letter to the Dutch modern architect Oud, 24 June 1919; as cited in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 126

1931 - 1960[edit]

  • Mondrian has made his studio opposite so very beautiful, and his company was always inspiring, as it had been in Paris when we used to visit him. After a while he really seemed to our domestic scene. His studio and Ben's [the sculptor Ben Nicholson; Barbara was his wife then] were most austere, but my studio was a jumble of children, rocks, sculptures, trees, importunate flowers and washing.
  • 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]
    • Quote of 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.
    • Quote of Hans Hofmann (1948), in Search for the Real in the Visual Arts, p. 47
  • David Tudor and I went to Hilversum in Holland to make a recording for the Dutch radio. We arrived at the studio early and there was some delay. To pass the time, we chatted with the engineer who was to work with us. He asked me what kind of music he was about to record. Since he was a Dutchman I said, 'It may remind you of the work of Mondrian.' When the session was finished and the three of us were leaving the studio, I asked the engineer what he thought of the music we had played. He said, 'It reminded me of the work of Mondrian.'
    • Quote of John Cage, in 'Lecture on Nothing', (c. 1949), as cited in Silence: lectures and writings by Cage, John, Publisher Middletown, Conn. Wesleyan University Press, June 1961, p. 127
    • this lecture had been prepared some years earlier, but was not printed until 1959, when it appeared in 'It Is', ed. Philip Pavia
  • I like [El] Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Tatlin and Gabo [all Russian Constructivist artists]; 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.
    • Quote of Willem de Kooning (1951), in his speech 'What Abstract Art means to me' on the symposium 'What is Abstract Art' - at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 5 February, 1951, n.p.
  • My entrance into the field of abstract art came about as the result of a visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian in Paris in 1930. I was particularly impressed by some rectangles of color he had tacked on his wall in a pattern after his nature. I told him I would like to make them oscillate he objected. I went home and tried to paint abstractly - but in two weeks I was back again among plastic materials. I think that at that time and practically ever since, the underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe, or part thereof. For that is a rather large model to work from.
    • Quote of Alexander Calder (c. 1950), as cited in What Abstract Art Means to Me, George L. K. Morris, Willem De Kooning, Alexander Calder, Fritz Glarner, Robert Motherwell, Stuart Davis; in 'The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art', Vol. 18, No. 3, (Spring, 1951), pp. 2-15
  • It [Mondrian's studio in Paris, c. 1930] was a very exciting room. Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: 'No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.' This visit gave me a shock.. .This one visit gave me a shock that started things.
    • Quote of Alexander Calder, 1950's - about Mondrian's studio; as cited in Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures, A. Calder; Pantheon Books, New York: 1966, p. 113
  • 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.
    • Quote of Willem de Kooning (March 1960), in an interview with David Sylvester, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'Location', Spring 1963; as cited in Interviews with American Artists, by David Sylvester; Chatto & Windus, London 2001, p. 49
  • 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.
    • Quote of Robert Motherwell (1960), in an interview with David Sylvester, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'Metro', 1962; as cited 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 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 [19]thirties as a rather cold and static artist. Maybe it is only more recently that we have realized 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.
    • Quote of David Sylvester (March 1960), in his interview with Robert Motherwell, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'Metro', 1962; as cited in Interviews with American Artists, by David Sylvester; Chatto & Windus, London 2001, p. 81
  • But already in his early works, as in the still-life of 1893.. ..there is a tendency towards the static and well-balanced arrangement. He has a preference for painting in atmospheric conditions which tend to efface the individual forms and emphasize the general outline: Mondrian: 'I often sketched by moonlight - cows resting or standing immovable in flat Dutch meadows, or houses with dead, blank windows. I never painted these things romantically'.
  • [Mondrian] stood very stiffly, with straight arms pressed close to his sides as though defending himself against some dangerous intrusion. [He was]..a Dutch puritan, akin to the stern Arnolfini.
  • I have seen him [Mondrian] dancing with some lively girl tot he current rhythms of the day (especially jazz), which made such a strong appeal to him. Although he always followed the beat of the music, he seems to interpolate a rhythm of his own. He was away in a dream, yet remained prim and precise and always kept exact time, although creating the impression of an artistic, indeed almost abstract, dancing figure. It could not have been much fun for the girl to drift across the dance floor in a kind of trance in the midst of all the normal pleasure-seeking throng. He himself was aware of this and later compensated the girl – most generously, considering his slender means – for giving up her time to him. 'Perhaps she was expecting something else', he would then say with that worldly wise, yet good-natured air of his.
    • Quote of J. J. P. Oud, c. 1960; as cited in Mondrian's Philosophy of Visual Rhythm: Phenomenology, Wittgenstein, and Eastern thought, Eiichi Tosaki; Springer, 2017, p. 136

1961 and later[edit]

  • 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.
    • Quote of 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.
    • Quote of 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.
    • Quote of Bram van Velde (April 1968), in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign, 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.
      • Quote of Bram van Velde (July 1970), in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign, 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.
    • Quote of Bram van Velde (August. 1972), in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign, p. 90
  • Before you start to think about Mondrian's paintings, you have to realise that he was born, in 1872, by candlelight in Amersfoort {The Netherlands], a backward, economically undeveloped town in Utrecht. And he died, aged 71, beneath fluorescent lights, on the 36th floor of a skyscraper in New York. That's an enormous leap, from the 19th into the 20th Century – and I think it's very telling for the artist.
    • Quote of Mondrian's recent biographer Hans Janssen, of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague; as cited by Alastair Sooke, in 'Mondrian - the Joy of Being Square'; BBC culture, 10 July 2017
  • Mondrian is often portrayed as a rational, ascetic man, a monk who shut himself away in his studio to work on his paintings in peace and quiet. But if you look at the historical facts, you have to conclude that the opposite is in fact true. Mondrian flourished as an artist in Paris, became famous in New York and spent his time in the company of bohemian artists, and spent his money on nightlife and women.
    • Quote of Hans Janssen, (writer of a biography of Mondrian: Piet Mondriaan. Een nieuwe kunst voor een ongekend leven / Piet Mondrian. A New Art for a Life Unknown, Hollands Diep, Netherlands, 2017); as cited on the website of Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag

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