Piet Mondrian – Talking about painting

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

(The series Learn about modern painting)

Mondrian began his career as a landscape painter after training in fine arts in Amsterdam. It was not until 1908 that he began to pursue the neo-Impressionist style. In 1911, he opened a studio in Paris and began to study Cubism. It was the stylistic approach of cubism that took Mondrian away from figurative painting. Returning to the Netherlands in 1914, Mondrian reduced the landscape motifs, emphasizing their geometrical nature instead. In 1917, he wrote the aesthetic program, founded the school of Neoplasticism and with Theo van Doesburg founded the group Stijl. Mondrian’s painting with its ascetic white plane, vertical and horizontal lines, and moderation in primary colors was important for the emergence of the immaterial schools of painting and had a great influence on the modern architecture and design fields. In 1938, Mondrian left Paris, where he had lived since 1919, for London and later settled in New York. Here he opened a new chapter with his theoretical explorations of line and color while creating works that reflected New York’s urban rhythms and contemporary jazz.


Not everyone realizes that in all visual arts, even in the most natural of works, natural form and color are, to a certain extent, always changing. In fact, while this may not be directly visible, line tension, pattern, and color strength are always increased. Visual experience shows that the natural appearance of things is not to be fixed in essential realism but must be transformed to arouse aesthetic feelings.

Over the centuries, the culture of the visual arts has shown us that this transformation is, indeed, the starting point of the abstraction of the natural image that, in modern times, will manifest itself as is abstract painting. Although abstract painting has developed through abstraction of the natural plane, in its present evolution it has become even more concrete because it uses pure form and pure color. .

The sense of inevitability of abstraction in the visual arts developed slowly. Initially, it was only experienced intuitively. It was only after centuries of increasing transformation of the natural plane that clearer forms of abstraction arose until the visual arts were finally liberated from concrete features. of subject and object. This emancipation is what matters the most. For the visual arts reveal to us that it is concrete features that overshadow the pure expression of form, color, and relationships. In the visual arts, form and color are the essential means of expression. Features and the organic relationship between them determine the overall expression of a work. Abstraction not only makes form and color more objective, but also reveals their characteristics more clearly. Thus, we can see that form and color abstraction merely “modifies” the work of art, but abstract art, even in naturalist painting, also necessarily create a universal expression through composition. Through composition and other visual elements, a naturalist work can also achieve a more universal expression than an abstract work that does not make proper use of these elements.

We have come to see that the main problem of the visual arts is not in avoiding the representation of objects but in being as objectively neutral as possible. The name intangible painting (nonobjective) must be made in relation to the object, that is, to a different order of ideas. The visual arts show us that the universal expression of a work of art is dependent on our subjectivity – which presents the main obstacle to the objective expression of reality. An objective image – the more objective the better – is a key requirement of all visual arts. If objective vision is achievable, it will give us a true picture of reality.

Over the centuries, our vision is constantly expanding thanks to the development of life, science, and technology. As a result, we can observe more objectively. Intuitively, however, the visual arts always aim at a universal expression of reality. All visual arts construct this expression through the dynamic movement of patterns and colors. But abstract painting, as opposed to naturalist painting, can realize this expressive ambition more clearly and in keeping with modern times. However, it must be said that judgment about a work of art depends on one’s personal perception of it. What is obvious to one person may be ambiguous to another. This fact explains the existence of many different trends in the same period. Abstract painting clearly shows the ideas and emotions that gave birth to the work as well as the rules that govern the process of its creation. Consequently, it is clear that in modern times these laws can be studied and analyzed more precisely.

If we study the culture of the visual arts throughout the centuries, we will see that abstract painting is the product of that culture. It is clear that modern painting, while encountering all modern advancements, has evolved from past painting through practice and experience. We see the culture of the visual arts as an sustained progress (consistent progressive), changes in trends follow one another in a logical sequence. Periods of development and periods of decline or stagnation produce an ever-increasing development of the mode of expression towards a direct expression of the intrinsic content of the visual arts. Periods of decline and stagnation act as negative factors in the overall development of the visual arts.


Reality manifests itself as something immutable and objective – independent of us, but at the same time variable in space-time. Consequently, its image in our consciousness includes both of those features.

Disturbed in our spirit, Those features blend together and we don’t have a real picture of reality.

This explains the multiplicity of conceptions and, in art, the diversity of forms of expression.

The cleaner the artist’s mirror, the more realistic the image of reality reflected in it.

Observing the historical culture of art, we must conclude that this mirror is only being cleaned very slowly. It is this process of cleaning the mirror that reveals a realistic image that is gradually more stable and more objective.


sea ​​Pearl Translate

The source: Twentieth-Century Artists on ArtNew York: Pantheon Books 1985, p.10-12

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