Think of Piet Mondrian, and you think of geometric abstractions, quadrangles in block colours, grids of colour, verticals and horizontals. Paintings simplified down to grids, in an attempt to reveal the invisible order of the universe. Murky, naturalistic landscapes depicting the countryside outside Amsterdam probably wouldn't be your first thought. And yet, in the years prior to what he called his 'Neo-Plasticist' abstraction, the Dutch painter was obsessed with capturing nature exactly as it was. The dense figurative landscapes currently on display at David Zwirner are the result.
From 1900-1905, after graduating from Amsterdam's Academy for Fine Art, Mondrian was still finding his artistic path. His Academy education had taught him that making figure studies in the stilled air of a studio was the noble way to refine his skill; but Mondrian defied this. He would spend hours outdoors, painting dense little canvases of muddy ditches, mills, canals and farm outhouses.
Whether these pictures have much artistic merit is still a matter of debate; they're odd, cheerless little things; slightly lumpen. But it is interesting to see a figurative Mondrian, and to pick out hints of the abstraction to come. For example, the most interesting picture in the exhibition, A Farmhouse Behind A Fence is oddly mathematical, made up of the horizontals and verticals that would go on to define the artist.
Drop in on this quirky exhibition next time you're in Mayfair.
|What||Early Mondrian, David Zwirner|
|Where||David Zwirner, 24 Grafton Street, London, W1S 4EZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Green Park (underground)|
26 Nov 15 – 23 Jan 16, Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|