Letter: Mondrian's genius was not achieved alone

Robert Meekings
Friday 01 August 1997 23:02

Sir: I read with interest the review of the Mondrian exhibition at the Tate Gallery ("Designs for living", 29 July) and I felt the article gave the misleading impression that Mondrian developed his style of work alone. It is my impression that this belief was started by his disciple and publicist, Harry Holtzman, in order to increase the market value of his work.

As a member of the Dutch De Stijl group his personal style evolved in the context of this circle. Mondrian's reworking of his 1917 abstract painting Composition in Line, thickening and separating the lines, shows a clear response to Van der Leck's use of disjointed bars of primary colour in Composition 3. Through his correspondence with Van Doesburg, the founder of De Stijl, Mondrian was able to discuss and clarify his ideas.

In 1918 Mondrian was surprised to find that Vilmos Huszar was also working on a subdivided canvas and he subsequently altered his work to differentiate it. This was the period when Mondrian started to divide up the canvas using a pattern of horizontal and vertical lines, filling the rectangular gaps with planes of colour. Much to the displeasure of Van Doesburg, however, Mondrian tended to mix, or "pollute", his colours with greys, achieving a muted effect.

It was not until 1922 with his Composition in Red, Yellow and Blue that Mondrian adopted the already established De Stijl colour-scale of "pure" red, yellow and blue with black, white and grey. Since his later work was the refinement of this style, and he did not break with De Stijl until 1925, Mondrian's genius seems to owe a lot to others.


London N3

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