Piet Mondrian on display for the first time at MUDEC in Milan

De Stijl’s Piet Mondrian on display for the first time at MUDEC in Milan

December 9, 2021

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Joanne Marie Camello

An avant-garde pioneer of the 20th century abstract art movement and an influencing icon among renowned architects and designers, Piet Mondrian is seen on an exclusive display for the first time at MUDEC – Museo delle Culture in Milan. His works curated in a project entitled Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction immerse the city’s art enthusiasts on the aesthetic evolution from the figurative impressions of trees, barns, and windmills to the abstract collocation of rhythmic lines and colors.

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is a Dutch painter born in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Dubbed as one of the most important colorists of his time, Mondrian is known as the founder of abstract art and father of Neoplasticism. He was introduced to the artistic field by his father at an early age, that eventually led him to enter the Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam and begin his career as an artist and instructor. While he started with traditional Dutch realist paintings of landscapes and nature, his style made a gradual transition to cubist and abstract techniques after moving to Paris in 1911. This direction opened the doors for him and painter Theo van Doesburg to create the famed simplified aesthetic movement De Stijl, the Neoplastic expression framed on straight lines, primary colors and rectilinear planes.

Mondrian extracts his meticulous figurative convergence of non-objective elements that are linked to the purest academic style. His paintings evolved in gradual process of formal perfection from naturalism and impressionism to fauvism, cubism and abstract realism. Among his artworks include the neo-impressionist piece Devotion (1908), The Gray Tree (1913) in dark-toned cubism, Composition II in Red, Yellow and Blue (1929) representing the pinnacle of his abstraction, Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1943) dedicated to the buzzing city grid of Manhattan and his unfinished music-inspired painting Victory Boogie-Woogie (1944).

Piet Mondrian.  Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1921 (Photo by Museo delle Culture)
Piet Mondrian.  Composition with Blue, 1937 (Photo by Museo delle Culture)
Piet Mondrian. Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1929 (Photo by Museo delle Culture)

Pinning his distinct modern style through paintings, Mondrian has inspired architects, designers and musicians around the world to apply such movement in the transitioning works of modern and contemporary art and architecture. Neoplasticism influenced German architect Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus movement and decades later, the development of Minimalism. Driven by Mondrian’s principles, De Stijl architect Gerrit Rietveld designed Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1924 while Charles and Ray Eames’ Case Study House rose in California in 1949. In 2017, the 100th anniversary of De Stijl Movement, Richard Meier’s City Hall of The Hague got a Mondrian makeover, transforming the edifice as the “largest Mondrian painting in the world.”

His artworks were paraded in catwalks, printed in bags, hung as posters on walls around the world. In 1965, French designer Yves Saint Laurent launched the Mondrian Collection with six cocktail dresses that embed Mondrian’s celebrated primary hues and lines. Color-compositions-inspired musical record covers emerged including The White Stripes’ album “De Stijl” (2000), Coldplay’s “X & Y” (2005), and Silverchair’s “Young Modern” (2007).

Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction

Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction

Created by 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE in collaboration with Kunstmuseum Den Haag, an art museum in Netherlands that holds the world’s biggest collection of Mondrian’s works, Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction (Piet Mondrian. Dalla figurazione all’astrazione) is an on-going exhibition that brings 60 loaned works of Piet Mondrian, and master artists from Hauge School and De Stijl designers. Adding to the gallery are two works of Mondrian from Museo del Novecento in Milan and a neoplastic painting from the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade.

Conceptualized by the director of Kunstmuseum Den Haag Benno Tempel and curated by the Head of Exhibitions Daniel Koep and the Head of Collections Doede Hardemann, the exhibit offers a narrative of Mondrian’s transition expressed through his pieces and comparison between the works of “figurative” period and “abstract” period. Visitors experience the itinerary of art evolution through the thematic sections of the gallery, from the early figurative process showcasing depiction of Dutch landscapes in subdued tones, down to the progressive phase of abstraction filled with synthesized lines, shapes and primary hues.

Shown as the core highlight and the last section of the exhibition, De Stijl is dedicated to Neoplasticism which triggered stylistic innovations in art, architecture and design. To expound on its influence on design, a section curated by design historian Domitilla Dardi presents three aspects of the Mondrian Effect: the relationship between De Stijl and Gerrit Rietveld, designer of the Red and Blue Chair, briefed through the philological reissues of Cassina; Mondrian’s critical fortune in Italian artistic culture, with the materials showing the first solo show of 1956 set up by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa at the GNAM in Rome; and the influence of the Mondrian pattern on contemporary designers, like Shiro Kuramata’s Homage to Mondrian cabinet produced by Cappellini.

Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction
Piet Mondrian: From Figuration to Abstraction

Alongside the art pieces displayed, jazz enthusiasm of the artist is reflected through the musical accompaniment of the itinerary. Mondrian regarded jazz as the musical equivalent of neoplasticism, as he strongly portrays resemblance of jazz bands and his painting. Complementing the entire exhibit, a video installation edited by Storyville unfolds poetry between his abstract works and music which gives the visitors an immersive opportunity for interpretations beyond spatial dimension.

Photos by Joanne Camello
Photos by Joanne Camello
Photos by Joanne Camello

The exhibit runs from November 24, 2021 to March 27, 2022 at MUDEC located in Via Tortona, 6, Milan, Italy, open every day in various times.