Piet Mondrian

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Piet Mondrian, 1922.

Pieter Cornelis (Piet) Mondriaan (after 1912 Mondrian; March 7, 1872February 1, 1944) was a Dutch painter starting in Dutch impressionism but soon developing abstraction in his landscape paintings. He became 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, by date of the quotes

1905 - 1914[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 in a letter to w:Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as quoted 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 a letter to w:Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as quoted 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.
    • In a letter to Israel Querido, Summer of 1909; published in the weekly magazine 'De Controleur' 23 Oct, 1909; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 36


  • He [ w: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.
    • In a letter to Cornelis Spoor, Domburg October 1910; Van Ginneken and Joosten, op. cit. (note 26), pp. 263; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 47.


1911 - 1915[edit]

  • Masculine and feminime, vertical and horizontal.
    • Written note beneath a drawing in his sketchbook, 1910/11; as 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 Mondrian's sketchbook, around 1911; Quoted in: Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co.,1964, p. 11


  • 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.
    • In an undated letter to Alleta de Jongh, Paris, Spring 1912; as quoted 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 as 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 his sketchbook II 1912/13; as quoted 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 his 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.
    • note in one of his Paris sketchbooks; as quoted 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 the Dutch art-critic and buyer of his paintings, H. P. Bremmer, 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 & the Catholic painter and his former teacher 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 Lodwijk 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).
    • In a letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as quoted 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.
    • In a letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as quoted 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.
    • In a letter to H. P. Bremmer, Paris 29 January 1914; ; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 81


1915 - 1918[edit]

  • 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 (transl. 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 [in the planned art-Journal 'De Stijl'] what is not consistent with our ideas.)
    • Letter to Theo van Doesburg, Amsterdam, Novemer 20, 1915; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, (transl. Daphne Woodward)), Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 234


  • 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] 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.
  • In letter of 7 March 1917 to H. P. Bremmer; as quoted 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. [the growing controversy between Mondrian and Van Doesburg]
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, undated, c. May 1918; as quoted in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 120


  • 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.' (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


De Stijl, No. 1, Oktober 1917[edit]

De Stijl, No. 1, Oktober 1917; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963. (transl. 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


Piet Mondriaan in his studio in Paris with Nelly van Doesburg - Amsterdam, Privatcollection.
  • 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


  • The free placement of the means of expression is a privilege enjoyed exclusively by painting. 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..
    • p. 237


1919 - 1925[edit]

  • 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, 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.
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, 18 April 1919; as quoted 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 a 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.
    • In a letter to Theo van Doesburg, 4 December 1919; as quoted 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 [where Van Doesburg emphasis the dynamic position of the viewer – a central idea of Futurism.(1919)
    • As quoted in Mondrian, -The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, pp. 148


  • 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.
    • Quote in Natural Reality and Abstract Reality, Piet Mondrian, 1919: on Neo-plasticism


  • 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. [in Dutch: 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 [this poem has strong connections with dynamism Futurism]
    • In 'The Grand Boulevards', Piet Mondriaan, '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', Piet Mondriaan, '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


  • [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.
    • In 'Natuurlijke en abstracte realiteit', Piet Mondriaan, '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 ].
    • In a letter to w:Lodewijk van Deyssel (who reacted as Dutch art critic on Mondrians essay: 'Le Néo-plasticisme'] Paris, February 1921; as quoted 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 [ w:Rudolf Steiner, the 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. [c. 1921/23]
    • In a letter to Rudolph Steiner; as quoted 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. [c. 1921/23]
    • In a letter to Rudolph Steiner; as quoted in 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 fulfillment of man and signal the end of (what we call) art. [c. 1921/23]
    • In a letter to Rudolph Steiner; as quoted in Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co., 1964, p. 85


1925 and later[edit]

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • In: 'De Jazz en de Neo-plastiek', Piet Mondriaan, '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', January 1927


  • 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?)]
    • as quoted 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.
    • 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.
    • In 'The New Art – The New Life', Piet Mondrian, op. cit. Introd. Note 1., 1931


  • [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, artist Gorin made that time].. .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.
    • In a letter to the 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


  • 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


  • 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.
    • 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
    • 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


  • 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.
    • In a letter to Sweeney, 24 May 1943; as quoted 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.
    • a postcard note, late May 1943; as quoted in Mondrian, - The Art of Destruction, Carel Blotkamp, Reaktion Books LTD. London 2001, p. 240


  • By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created.
    • as quoted in Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 117

Quotes about Piet Mondrian[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • 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...
    • 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


  • 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 [[w: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]
    • 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 [El] 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.
    • Willem de Kooning (March 1960), in an interview with w:David Sylvester, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'Location', Spring 1963; as quoted 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.
    • 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 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.
    • w:David Sylvester (March 1960), in his interview with Robert Motherwell, 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


  • w: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.'
    • John Cage, 'Lecture on Nothing', (c. 1949), 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


  • 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

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