The Place of "Composition 12 with Small
Blue Square" in the Art of Piet Mondrian
by Robert Welsh
| 10 | 11
34 The Cas Oorthuys photograph of Mondrian's 1937 studio shows the Tate
painting (in New York misdated by the artist "39-42"), and
Composition 12, plus another against which the latter leans, to have
been then in an unfinished state, presumably that in which the
paintings were brought to London then New York. In contrast, not
Composition with Small Blue Rectangle, but the canvas seen fragmentarily at the left of the photograph, appear as finished,
even coated with varnish. The latter example, moreover, might
represent the painting dated 1937-1942, recently given by Sidney
Janis to the Museum of Modern Art, New York (ill. 26 in ex. cat.
Mondrian; New York: S. Janis Gallery, 1957), if one predicates an
even greater number of additions than ascertainable in the Tate
example. The assumption that Mondrian did indeed transform
several "finished" European paintings for the 1942
Dudensing Gallery exhibition is demonstrable from two forms of
First, two of the three vertical format paintings of the mid-1930s (namely
S: cc 386-387; see note 31 above), were exhibited publicly in 1936,
respectively in New York and London, (e.g.,
see A. H. Barr Jr., ex.
cat. Cubism and Abstract Art
[New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1936],
p. 152, ill. 158), but now contain additional line segments and un-enclosed
colour blocks, doubtless added before at least one of them
was included at the Dudensing exhibition as indicated by the
double date, 1935-1942. Second, among other possible instances, a
painting now owned by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
(S: cc 396), bearing the date "35-42" (but probably begun
1937, as indicated by Mondrian's stretcher inscription
verso) would appear to be a transformed version of the middle
painting, illustrated p. 34, in Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art.
Similarly, the 1936-1942 painting, now at the Moderna Museet,
Stockholm (S: cc 412), quite likely is the same painting,
illustrated in its preliminary state, circa 1937, i.e.
as S: cc
292, and Plastic Art, p. 45, at left.
The explanation for these cases of "double exposure" would
seem to reside in Mondrian's habit of having a number of
paintings, which he executed in Paris, photographed by the late Marc
Vaux, at least some of which reproductions accompanied him to New
York, and were unwittingly published posthumously, as still extant
untransformed canvases (my thanks to Michel Seuphor, who in
recent conversation supplied the information about Marc Vaux, and
who now agrees with my belief in several such instances).
35 Apart from the Ottawa, Düsseldorf, Stockholm, Hague, and
Tate Gallery examples already discussed, an unfinished composition
(S: cc 433, where for lack of inscribed date, or other evidence to
indicate Mondrian's preference, it was reproduced upside-down) can
also be ascribed in genesis to circa
1936-1937, since it appears in
its present state in another, as yet unpublished Cas Oorthuys
photograph, taken in the 1937 Mondrian Paris studio.
36 For an alternative interpretation of Mondrian's evolution of the
grid principle, see F. Saint-Martin, Structures de l'Espace Pictural
(Montreal: Editions HMH, 1968), pp. 83-116.
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