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Piet Mondrian

/Works and biography

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Composition No. 1 with Grey and Red 1938 / Composition with Red 1939, 1938–39
Oil on canvas, mounted on wood support,
canvas 105.2 x 102.3 cm; wood support 109.1 x 106 x 2.5 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 39
© 2012 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington DC


From 1938 to 1940 Piet Mondrian lived in London and continued working in the highly reductivist Neo-Plastic mode he had developed in France, in which horizontal and vertical black lines intersect on the canvas in asymmetrically balanced relationships to yield flat white or colored quadrilaterals. The palette is generally restricted to black, white, and primary colors. The present work is among the more coloristically austere examples. By divorcing form completely from its referential meaning, Mondrian hoped to provide a visual equivalent for the truths that inhabit nature but are concealed in its random, flawed manifestations. He felt that if he could communicate these truths by means of a system of resolved oppositions, the spiritual effect on the viewer would be one of total repose and animistic harmony. In order to effect this transmission the artist must sublimate his personality so that it does not interfere with the viewer’s perception of the rhythmic equilibrium of line, dimension, and color. These elements, however, are organized not according to the impersonal dictates of mathematics but rather to the intuition of the artist. Mondrian sought to unite art, matter, and spirit to discover in all aspects of experience the universal harmony posited in Neo-Plasticism.

credits: Hangar Design Group