Friday, 2 December 2011

Mondrian flowers

I am assembling images of all the Mondrian Flower paintings I can find. Although dismissed by many writers as only being created because the abstracts weren't selling, and even if Mondrian resented having to paint them, I have enjoyed the research and think there are some real gems. They also played a clear role in the path towards abstraction.

The impetus behind this was finding a homage by Colin McCahon, Mondrian's chrysanthemum of 1908, 1971, shown on the link.

There are around 180 flower drawings and paintings overall: a more detailed analysis of the mediums used, subjects and whereabouts will follow.

I came within a reasonable distance of owning a Mondrian soon after developing my interest in the early 2000s: a flower watercolour popped up on eBay with what looked like a reasonable provenance, starting at $200 but only shipping to the USA. I would have been prepared to travel over to pick it up but the sale was withdrawn long before the end.

There is an interesting homage here.

The two images shown are:
C34 Amaryllis, 1907, pencil and watercolour on paper; and
C102 Dahlia, pencil and watercolour on lined paper, from the The Pierpont Morgan Library.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A new Mondrian painting

New to me, at least, and not shown in the Catalogue Raisonné 

Composition with Black, Red, Grey, Yellow and Blue c.1920 (left) is part of the promised gift of Julian and Josie Robertson, in memory of the latter, to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The piece is described as gouache with traces of pencil laid down on card, 27.8x19.1 cm

It bears a remarkable resemblance (with the exception of size, medium and one small black plane, middle left) to Tableau 1, with Black, Red, Yellow, Blue and Light Black, 1921, oil on canvas, 96.5x60.5 cm (right) which is in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mondrian dresses

Yves Saint Laurent owned three Mondrians, including B142 Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black, 1922 (left), acquired in 1972 (the others were bought in 1969 and 1980). In 1965, YSL created his first Mondrian-influenced dress. The sketch (right) is by Kenneth Paul Block. This blog suggests that Anne Klein thought of it first, but that YSL's implementation was superior.

There are some memorable contemporary photographs of the dresses. The photograph on the left, including B116, Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black, Red, and Grey, 1921, was used by the Hague Gemeentemuseum in publicity for their exhibition Fashion ♥ Art: A Passionate Affair, Sep 2011 - Jan 2012. On the right is, perhaps, the finest contemporary photograph of a YSL Mondrian dress, Isabel Eberstadt taken by Frederick Eberstadt.

More recently, Francesso Maria Bandini has extended the concept. More details in this blog.

More on Mondrian-influenced clothing here.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Identifying Mondrian abstracts

I have been working on a straightforward method of identifying Mondrians from the 1920 lines-and-planes abstracts onwards. 

My solution is to count the number of coloured and black planes which gives a 4-digit code. I have listed all the Mondrians by this code and it is then just a question of matching the image in question. The colours are in the sequence red-yellow-blue, then black and so taking the example of B114, Composition with Yellow, Red, Black, Blue and Grey, 1920 on the left, this codes as 1212 and B239 Composition with Red and Blue, 1933 (right) as 2010.
The lookup page is here.

Note that some of the works no longer exist and have been reconstructed, and for some others, I do not have access to a colour image and those have been facsimilated.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Mondrian's studios

After leaving home to pursue his art studies and career in 1892, Mondrian occupied "many residences in and around Amsterdam over the next 20 years" [Bois et al].  He made short visits abroad to Cornwall with Hannah Crabb in the summer of 1900 and to Spain with Simon Maris in the summer of 1901. Within Holland, he spent time in Uden (1904), Oele (1906), Domburg (1908 and 1909) and Zeeland (1911). The first studio photograph is of Mondrian in his Rembrandtplein studio in 1905.

The second photograph (by R. Drektraan) is at Sarphatipark 52, Amsterdam, where Mondrian lived in 1909-10. The photograph was taken before he painted the floor black and the walls and furniture white.

In June 1911 he visited Paris for 10 days and in January 1912 moved to Paris, his first address being 33 avenue du Maine. In May 1912 he transferred to 26 rue du Départ, probably his favourite workplace. This photograph of the exterior was taken by by Alfred Roth in 1928.

He returned to Holland frequently: in 1914 he visited his father in Arnhem and could not return to France because of the outbreak of the First World War. He continued to pay quarterly rent on 26 rue du Départ during this enforced absence. Most of this period in Holland was spend in Laren, the photograph left shows his studio there.

Mondrian returned to Paris in June 1920. He first occupied another room at 26 as Marthe Donas was living in his old studio. In November he moved to 5 rue de Coulmiers where he decorated the walls with cardboard painted with primary colours, white and grey. The studio has been recreated in this blog and this video by Ryan Egel-Andrews.

In October 1921 Mondrian moved back to a larger studio at 26. He repainted it in May 1924. In 1926 Delbo photographed the studio and these images were used by Frans Postma to create 26, rue du Départ (published  1995),  a reconstruction which was also shown in the 2011 exhibition at the Pompidou Centre. Mondrian repainted the studio in July and August 1927.

Mondrian's last Paris studio was at 278 boulevard Raspail. He moved there in March 1936, immediately painted the walls white and soon added colour planes.
The photograph shows Mondrian with his brother Carel and Carel's wife Mary.

The threat of the Second World War caused Mondrian to leave Paris in September 1938: Winifred Nicholson travelled with him to London and helped him to set up in Hampstead, where many artists lived. He took a room and studio at 60 Parkhill Road. A bomb landed nearby in September 1940 and Mondrian moved back to the Ormande Hotel, Belsize Grove, where he first had stayed in London.

At the end of September, Mondrian boarded the Samaria in Liverpool and sailed to New York, arriving on 3rd October.

He stayed with Harry Holtzman at first, at his apartment and his summer home in the Berkshires.

Holtzman rented Mondrian an apartment on the third floor of 353 East 56th Street. Mondrian painted the walls white and added colour planes.

The 1942 photograph is by Arnold Newman.

He moved to 15 East 59th Street in October 1943: in this case, the walls were whitewashed in advance, leaving Mondrian to add the colour planes. The photograph, showing Victory Boogie Woogie was  taken by Holtzman a few days after Mondrian died on 1st February 1944. The studio was recreated for a 1995/96 MoMA exhibition.

Mondrian was buried at Cypress Hill Cemetary.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Stained glass, upstairs

Upstairs now complete with B318 and B108. B318, on the left, took a lot longer as it needed two fused glass components.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Mondrian teapot by Art4 Ceramics
1. Mondrian teapot by Art4 Ceramics
The Collection, although currently archived, contains much stuff to be celebrated.

Today it's the teapot, one of the most expensive pieces in the Collection and one of the most perfectly-formed.

Mondrian teapot by Enesco
2. Mondrian teapot by Enesco
A second entirely different but equally pleasing teapot acquired in March 2013 for a mere £3.19 on ebay.

Mondrian teapot by CK
3. Mondrian teapot by CK (CBK?)

Friday, 1 July 2011

Stained Glass

Although PM is said to have disliked stained glass, his paintings are eminently suitable for the medium and so the house is gradually filling up with glass pieces large and small.

After a couple of courses at Lead and Light, I am turning out both fused and leaded reworkings. The front windows downstairs now have a B217 and a B235 and upstairs is progressing.

More details here.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mouton Rothschild

Baron Philippe de Rothschild first became involved in the family's wine production in 1922 and became proprietor upon the death of his father in 1947. The brand produces some of the finest wine available, but there's plenty of that around: more importantly, Baron Philippe developed the notion of incorporating the product with the most prestigious contemporary art by commissioning artists' labels.

Some of the participants: 1955 Braque;  1958 Dali; 1964 Henry Moore; 1969 Miró; 1979 Chagall; 1973 Picasso; 1975 Warhol. The 1993 nude by Balthus was banned in the USA and therefore released there with a blank label.

Regrettably, Mondrian's death in 1944 excluded him from the process. Had he lived a few years longer, he would surely have been invited to participate and produce a label. I had to fake this one.

There's a terrific source on the real labels here, images here and a good book, Mouton Rothschild: Paintings for the Labels, 1945-81, available at sensible prices second-hand.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Mark Caywood

Mark is the most creative of the Mondrian homagistes with two (or three) entries on the homage pages.

Three Hotels on Broadway Boogie-Woogie - 1949 (oil on canvas, 56x46 inches) echoes the 1940s New York pictures.

Jail Cell, Designed by Piet Mondrian
(Cement, Desk, Bed, Iron Bars: painted and furnished in 1941) evokes
New York City, 1942 more directly.


Reitveld rather than Mondrian, but still De Stijl,  Red & Blue Electric Chair (Plywood, pine, leather, electric wires, 4' x 2') continues the theme of incarceration.

Mark's descriptions of the pieces is as witty as the pictures themselves and he also writes perceptively and acerbically on art and particularly art institutions. Mark's work is shown here.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Stamp homage

Further philately in one of the most elegant Mondrian homages. A beautifully crafted fake USA miniature sheet, based on B221.

StamPiet Mondrian, 2005 was created by an entrant called williamvonr for a challenge on Worth1000.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Mondrian and cigarettes

Many photographs of Mondrian show him with a cigarette (the example left was taken by Fritz Glarner in 1943) and,occasionally a pipe (there is, of course the famous 1928 Andre Kertesz photograph Mondrian's Pipe and Glasses, shown right).

I spent quite a long time trying to find out what brand of cigarettes Mondrian smoked, but without success, however, the Catalogue Raisonné lists sketches for paintings on Craven A, Blue Line (a brand I have not been able to track) and other cigarette packages.

There are numerous items of smoking Mondriana, the most pleasing of which are this cigarette pack (a normal pack of Camels in a sleeve) and matching Zippo lighter.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Mondrian inflation

B262 sold at Sotheby's, New York in May 2002 for $5.3M.

The installation photograph, right, from CR shows B262 at the Modern Pictures for Modern Rooms exhibition, London, April 1936. Photographer unknown.

Interestingly, the catalogue gives a price of £40 (and the same for B263). £40 to £3.6M in 66 years. I learned here that a Leica 111 f2 Summar sold for £39.10.0 in that year: the top of the range Leica non-digital rangefinder, the M7 with 50mm f2 Summicron-M now costs around £4,100. A post on that link suggests that an agricutural labourer's wages would have been around £1.12.0 (£1.50) per week at the time. The minumum adult (>21) wage is currently (2011) £5.93 per hour, £208 for a 35 hour week, 75 years later.
In round terms: Mondrians have risen by a factor of 90,000 in 66 years; Leicas by 100; and minimum wage by 140 in 75 years. So it goes - please advise me of any factual or mathematical errors encountered in these paragraphs.

Mondrian Theory #1

The Nicholsons were friends of Mondrian. It was Winifred Nicholson who brought him from Paris to London in 1938. In 1931 or 32, Winifred painted her children on holiday on the Isle of Wight, shown left. In 1942, Mondrian painted New York City, shown right. Winifred retained the painting until she sold it in 1971. In Christopher Andreae's lovely biography of Winifred, he notes that 'One evening in Winifred's flat in Paris, 1936, Mondrian had seen Winifred's paintings and appreciated them - 'It was a good evening at your home and I saw with pleasure your work; also your "naturalistic" painting is very pure and true,' he wrote her in a thank-you note.' (Letter in the Tate Archives, Ben Nicholson Papers).

So perhaps two of Mondrian's key influences were women: Marlow Moss for the double lines and Winifred Nicholson for the New York coloured lines.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Betty Boop

A fun piece found on eBay, rather fully priced at £59.99, Betty Boop in a YSL dress and holding a wittily-placed frame.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Mondrian stamps

Stamps offer some of the neatest and prettiest homages and references to PM and most of them come from Holland.

The only item remaining on display from The Collection is a frame of stamps, cards and first day covers.

The items are, from the top,
  • a first day cover of the 1983 issue, showing Mondrian's Composition with Blue, Yellow, Red and Grey, 1922 (B134) on the 50c and Maison Particulière by Van Doesburg and Van Eesteren on the 65c. Van Doesburg was the original owner of B134.
  • an FDC of the 1994 issue (50th anniversary of PM's death) showing a detail of Mill, 1911 (A692) on the 70c; Lozenge Composition with Four Yellow Lines, 1933 (B241) and part of a frock on the 80c; and a detail of Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43(B323) on the 90c.
  • maxi-cards for the 1983 Mondrian and all of the 1994 issue, beautifully designed.
  • the individual stamps for those issues, plus a stamp from Togo showing Composition C, 1920, (B107).

Further details here.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Mondrian's Martini

Barnaby Conrad III
Barnaby Conrad III
This, shown left, is one of the earliest and the finest pieces in the collection, by Barnaby Conrad III, who seems to be a splendid and versatile fellow.

This was a 1995 reworking of a subject he had explored in 1992, as shown right, an image found in this martini-oriented site.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mondrian homage with vital input from Kleint, Vianini and Brio, 2011

Mondrian painted New York City (oil on canvas) in 1942.

 Boris Kleint created Little New York City, Mondrian Variation II (acrylic on wood) in 1983.

Claudio Vianini's private collection includes 1942 Piet Mondrian, which was found on his train-oriented web site.