Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter known for his simplistic, yet distinct style developed as part of the De Stijl movement. Known as “The Style” in English or Neoplasticism, he used straight lines and a limited palette to deconstruct reality and depict its “true” form. More than mere aesthetics, Mondrian also considered his works as a means to satisfy the spirit. Behind his iconic paintings, here are the following facts:
1. His true name is Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan.
- He and his father shared the same name. He dropped the second ‘a’ in his surname when he began using his moniker as an international artist.
- In perfect alignment with his contribution to modern abstract art, the name Piet Mondrian is an anagram for “I paint modern.”
2. His father and uncle are the main influences in his craft.
- The senior Mondriaan was an amateur artist, as well as headmaster of the local Calvinist primary school. He raised his children as orthodox Protestants and encouraged them to pursue the arts.
- Uncle Frits was a landscape painter of the Hague School. Together, they taught young Pieter how to draw and paint.
3. Mondrian was a qualified art teacher.
- Following his family’s wishes, he obtained a degree in education and became a certified drawing teacher like his father.
- Instead of pursuing a teaching position, Mondrian took more painting and drawing classes, and joined artist societies upon moving to Amsterdam.
4. His signature style is a combination of several art movements.
- Piet Mondrian deviated from traditional trends in Dutch painting which often depicted still-life and landscapes. His works gradually focused on rhythm and harmony through use of colors and lines.
- Inspired by Post-Impressionism and Luminism, he used a small range of bold colors and visible short lines to depict linear movement. This escalated into the early style of De Stijl where the only elements used were horizontal and vertical lines, and the primary colors along with black, white, and gray.
5. Mondrian’s style is also deeply rooted in spiritual belief.
- Aside from his strict religious upbringing, he also joined the Theosophical Society. The harmony he created in his works were synonymous with the harmony he sought with nature and the universe.
- Piet Mondrian believed that by simplifying objects, he “freed” and broke them down to their purest and most fundamental elements. Only through this purity would he find “schoon”, a word that means both both beauty and cleanliness in Dutch.
6. He remained unmarried, but fell in love with jazz.
- He enjoyed the genre even back in London, before escaping Nazi-occupied Europe. Mondrian, usually introverted and known for his simple lifestyle, enjoyed dancing despite being “terrible” at it, much to his friends’ dismay.
- His last works, known as the “Boogie-Woogie” paintings, were directly inspired by the music scene in New York. Instead of severe black lines, he used a yellow grid and brightly colored squares to depict the appearance and personality of the city.
Despite (and perhaps because of) the uncomplicated nature of his paintings, Piet Mondrian’s quest for purity and beauty has made him a leading figure in modern art. His works continue to inspire and live on in contemporary culture.
To learn more about other inspiring artists, check out their interesting facts here.