Beauty is the ultimate form of protest
Many of us know Piet Mondrian primarily from his non-objective Neo-Plastic style, and as one of the founders of De Stijl. But there is a pre-history, in which he spent a lot of time drawing and painting naturalistic landscapes and still-life, and the flowers followed him throughout his painting life.
Fascinated by the complex structure of chrysanthemums, Mondrian painted these delicate flowers throughout his career. This single, frontal blossom recalls the stylized chrysanthemums of Japanese prints. Mondrian added the initials and date near the bottom edge sometime after painting the flower. Since he returned to this subject repeatedly, even during his later years, this painting may have been produced as late as 1942, the year Mondrian exhibited it in New York.
But most of his dated flower paintings stems from an earlier period
Being less interested in theory nowadays, I take great joy in discovering this “other side” of Mondrian.
Piet Mondrian was born Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, Jr., on March 7, 1872, in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. He studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, from 1892 to 1897. Until 1908, when he began to take annual trips to Domburg in Zeeland, Mondrian’s work was naturalistic—incorporating successive influences of academic landscape and still-life painting, Dutch Impressionism, and Symbolism. In 1909, a major exhibition of his work (with that of Jan Sluyters and Cornelis Spoor) was held at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and that same year he joined the Theosophic Society. In 1909 and 1910, he experimented with Pointillism and by 1911 had begun to work in a Cubist mode. After seeing original Cubist works by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso at the first Moderne Kunstkring exhibition in 1911 in Amsterdam, Mondrian decided to move to Paris. There, from 1912 to 1914, he began to develop an independent abstract style.