The abstract work of Piet Mondrian, right through the 1920s, is perfectly summarised by Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow. It is one of many paintings produced in this style, which soon became his signature as an artist.
This particular painting came in 1930 and marked the end of this period in his work. The bold colours, clear defining lines of separation and simple forms became the signature style of Mondrian, over shadowing his work with landscapes, portraits and later abstract and cubist work. In has been said that this painting captures the essence of this period in his life, whilst Victory Boogie Woogie and Broadway Boogie Woogie successfully illustrated his time living in New York in the 1940s. Some sources actually date the painting at 1929, but we believe 1930 to be the most likely.
Rather than lines, Mondrian meant his black areas to be genuine shapes themselves, sometimes not quite reaching the edge of the canvas. The artist would also carefully place his non-white areas in order to provide a balance to the work. Those able to see this, and similar, artworks from Mondrian will notice how he stubtly varied his blocks of white, black and dark greys in order to create different feelings across his compositions. Digital images can't really illustrate this accurately, but we have included a larger image of the artwork at the bottom of the page which might help you to spot individual brushstrokes and also to spot some of the wear and tear that has occured since the painting was first put on display.
When viewing the originals up close, these seemingly basic geometric arrangements suddenly reveal intricate brush work and personal touches from an artist who poured his heart into every work, be it his earlier landscapes and portraits, to his later abstract compositions. This artist did not start as an abstract artist, far from it. You will see from his tree paintings, such as Grey Tree, that he started in a traditional style initially, perhaps inspired by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism before he started to experiment with bold colour choices. He would then slowly move towards abstraction before the trees themselves in later paintings would be just a simple matrix of line and form, becoming entirely unidentifiable as a result. Therefore, in items such as Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, we find an artist who has come to the end of that progression, just as Miro had done with paintings such as Bleu II and Hunter, Catalan Landscape.
Futher Information on Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow
This artwork from 1930 is a follow up to a similar painting from a year earlier, which perhaps explains the confusion which sometimes surrounds the date of this painting. It is held in the collection of the National Museum, Belgrade, Serbia, who themselves have a varied collection of art covering all manner of periods of European art. The artwork is perfectly square, and around 59.5cm tall and wide. This method of abstract art was something that came from a Dutch movement known as De Stijl, though others use the term Neoplasticism. Although the movement was restricted to the Netherlands, many have argued that the use of abstraction in genres such as landscape art was essential in moving European art as a whole towards the position that we find it in today. Perhaps that is the reason for why Mondrian is most famous for this style, rather than his earlier impressionist and cubist creations.