The Place of "Composition 12 with Small Home
| Français | Introduction
Blue Square" in the Art of Piet Mondrian
by Robert Welsh
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1 A former designation as "Composition No. 2" apparently resulted from a misreading
of the artist's stretcher inscription, the actual "12" of which is confirmed
by the "1936-1942" listed for that catalogue number by Dudensing at his
New York Fifty-Seventh Street gallery. While Nos l and 2 were works begun
and finished in New York, 3 to 13 were all begun in Europe.
2 See Piet Mondrian, "Towards the True Vision of Reality."
Art and Pure Plastic Art
(New York: George Wittenbom, 1945), p. 10;
hereafter: "True Vision."
3 E.g., on January 29, 1914, Mondrian wrote to the influential
Dutch art critic, H. P. Bremmer: "In that period [i.e., previous
to adopting Cubism] I sought for monumentality just as now, and I sought
to realize [a process of] abstracting by transforming the colours of
nature into several exaggerated colours. But later I became convinced that
such works were still too externalized [in conception] and, although perhaps
good after their kind, nonetheless too little, 'constructed'" (trans. from
Documentatie over Mondrian I," ed. J. M. Joosten,
XIII: 4, 1968, p. 211).
4 De Superville's stresses on "abstract" geometric shapes, the matter-spirit duality, and
vertical, horizontal and oblique linear directions, as contained in his
Essai sur les
Signes Inconditionnel dans l'Art
not only were incorporated into Blanc's
Grammaire des Arts du Dessin
but were cited by Mondrian in his essay series, "De Nieuwe Beelding in de Schilderkunst,"
I: 8 (June, 1918), p. 136, note 14 (or Complete Reprint Edition I; Amsterdam:
Athenaeum, 1968, p. 160). Worringer in
Abstraction and Empathy
and Kegan Paul 1953; first German edition, 1908) stressed an association
among Gothic art, abstraction and spirituality, which, if not likely to
have been known to Mondrian directly, was doubtless based upon the same
nineteenth-century source tradition from which the Dutch artist's own theoretical
5 See A. W. Reinink,
de Bazel Architect
Universitaire Pers, 1965) and Pieter Singelenberg,
(Utrecht: Haentjens, Dekker and Gumbert, 1972). Both authors
provide rich documentation on the importance of geometric, especially triangulated,
elements of design within these circles, in which, moreover, Theosophy
(see below) made a significant contribution. In germ form, a geometric
and symbolic basis for Gothic architecture already was posited in J. A. Alberdingk
De Heilige Lime of 1857
(significantly, reprinted 1909 in Amsterdam);
see esp. p. 133 ff:, where rectangles and triangles, as embodied for
example in pointed-arch windows, are said to embody, respectively, the
material and spiritual, or temporal and eternal, aspects of the Gothic
church. This theory, if actually known to Mondrian, would help explain
the geometrizing imagery of his various church and other architectural
façade subjects, beginning circa 1909-1910.
6 See R. P. Welsh, "Mondrian and Theosophy," ex. cat.
Piet Mondrian Centennial Exhibition
(New York: S. R. Guggenheim Museum,
1971), for an expanded version of the present analysis.
Joosten, "Documentatie over Mondrian I,"
and R. P. Welsh and J. M. Joosten eds.,
Two Mondrian Sketch books 1912-14
(Amsterdam: Meulenhoff Intemational, 1969), for evidence
that Cubism and Theosophy were closely linked in Mondrian's contemporary
8 See J. M. Joosten, "Mondrian and Cubism,"
for this development.
9 Illustrated in M. Seuphor,
Piet Mondrian, Life and Work
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1956), classified catalogue nos 169-174
(hereafter: S: cc).
in letter cited note 3, above.
S: cc 271-274; for documented instances of compositional drawings
1912-1914 for "Paris Façade"
paintings, see R. P. Welsh, ex. cat.
Piet Mondrian 1872-1944
Art Gallery of Toronto, 1966), pp. 144-155.
12 Cf:, Two Mondrian Sketch books,
esp. pp. 65-66, and
Mensch en Natuur
(Bussum: 1913), in both of which
texts the concept of a successful "life" is predicated on a balance of
vertical-horizontal, male-female and spiritual-material forces.
p. 71; the original Dutch, moreover, includes
the spirit-matter duality (i.e., "geest-stof"), as represented
by the artist and his materials.
14 "True Vision", p. 10.
17 See R. Rosenblum,
Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition:
Friedrich to Rothko
(New York: Harper and Row, 1975), pp.
as illustrated in a diagram of the Hindu Cosmology
which accompanied Madame H. P. Blavatsky's two-volume first testament of
(first edition, New York: 1877; reprint
edition, Wheaton, III: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972).
19 "True Vision," p. 13.
20 Included in
Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art
(see note 2, above), pp. 38-48.
21 "True Vision," p. 13.
22 The second checkerboard painting,
With Dark Colours, is
S: cc 293. Viewed as a square, the underlying grid of
of course conforms to the octopartite divisions of a
chessboard rather than the ten-by-ten rows of squares on a checkerboard.
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