His photographs show that Mondrian was not only a great artist but also a poser

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) cursed the black stove in his Paris studio, artist César Domela once claimed. The wood-burning stove was round, and this was out of place in Mondrian’s studio house in the Rue du Départ, which was designed entirely according to the laws of his New Plasticism. Straight lines, rectangles and primary colors reigned in the dilapidated house: Mondrian had applied many red, blue and yellow rectangles of various sizes to all the white walls, and he had placed all the furniture in the rooms in a strictly perpendicular arrangement.

Yet there was more than just the stove that wasn’t straight and angular in Mondrian’s studio, as the book published last week shows. Mondrian and photography. The artist in the picturewhere Wietse Coppes and Leo Jansen have collected all 411 existing photographs of Mondrian or his studios in Paris and New York.

Photos from the studio in Paris show, for example, that Mondrian not only sat there on wicker chairs with curved armrests and half-round half-timbering, but also on a sofa with a convex backrest. There was also a round ashtray and a round bowl here and there and a large convex lamp hung on one wall. On the floor lay what looks like a round reed mat, and in a corner of his studio stood a red-painted record player on which Mondrian played his round jazz records.

On the frontpage of Mondrian and photography there is even the well-known photo taken by the Hungarian photographer André Kertész of objects in Mondrian’s studio, all of which are mainly round: Mondrian’s glasses and pipe/Still Life. on Chez Mondrian, another, even more famous Mondrian photograph by Kertész, shows a convex round vase with an artificial tulip. The journalist wrote about this The telegraph who once came to interview Mondrian: “In his studio we discovered a flower in a round vase… When asked, Mondrian apologized with the words: ‘I wanted something that symbolized the grace and beauty of a woman’.”

Substitute for a woman

Mondrian may have been joking when he told Domela that he cursed his pot-stove and actually saw it as a substitute for the woman he never had. But it was probably a pose. Because, as Van Coppes and Jansen will prove, Mondrian was not only a great artist, but also a poser. Pose is therefore the title of the exhibition with 70 of the 411 Mondrian photographs in Fotomuseum The Hague.

Although only two photographs are known to have been taken by Mondrian himself, he consciously used photography as one surf by the visionary artist Mondrian, Coppes and Jansen convincingly demonstrate. In the portraits he commissioned Kertész and other photographers to make, he invariably posed as the dead serious modern artist in his studio like a three-dimensional Mondrian. There he made the higher, metaphysical reality visible with his Nieuwe-Beeldings paintings.

But especially from the snapshots taken by the many visitors to his studio, it appears that there were two, or rather, three Mondrians.

The first, still young Mondrian, is a traditional, heavily bearded painter of landscapes, still lifes and portraits who prefers to be photographed reading in his Amsterdam studios, cluttered with rags. But in 1910, a year after he joined the Theosophical Society and began his search for the true, pure art, he undergoes a metamorphosis.

of one ‘natural genius‘ makes Mondrian a ‘learned genius‘, write Coppes and Jansen. In no time, the romantic Rasputin-like artist gives way to a modern businessman with his hair combed back and who dresses in three-piece suits. He also sports a fashionable ‘toothbrush moustache’, now better known as the Hitler moustache. When he has himself portrayed, he almost always looks serious, stern and distant straight into the camera.

Sometimes the visits to his studio turned into dance parties, where Mondrian acted as DJ

Snapshots of his friends and acquaintances show a third Mondrian who appears relaxed, friendly and sociable. The third Mondrian has always existed. In a photo from 1903, for example, Mondrian is an elated holidaymaker who has lifted a friend on his shoulders, just before they set off on a sailing trip from IJmuiden to Bordeaux.

IN Mondrian and photography Mondrian does not appear as a hermit, but rather as an artist who has been busy all his life networking and participating in parties and open exhibitions. He also liked to go on trips with friends and acquaintances, for example to the Villa Stein-de Monzie designed by Le Corbusier in the Parisian suburb of Garches.

And in his studio, which as a harbinger of the earthly paradise acquired a mythical status among artists, visitors came and went. Sometimes the visits turned into dance parties, where Mondrian acted as DJ. And sometimes Mondrian happily opened a bottle of wine, as can be seen in a photograph André Kertész took in 1926, after he had earlier captured him as a dead-serious artist.

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