22.05.1955 – 10.07.1955
Curated by Max Bill.
Curated by Max Bill.
Piet Mondrian on the Road to Purity and Order
Piet Mondrian: The radically abstract painter, whose works obey only the laws he has defined for himself, and are claimed for modernity on that basis, has shaped art history like almost no other. The Kunsthaus Zürich installed an exhibition of 119 works for him in 1955, as part of the Zurich Festival. Mondrian (originally Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, b. 1872 Amersfoort near Utrecht, d. 1944 New York) started his career before the turn of the century as a properly conventional artist of landscapes and portraits. From 1917 he then turned consistently away from the visual world. In 1920, while living in Paris, he started to call his art – colored or black rectangles in the primary colors of red, blue and yellow, as well as shades of gray – ‘Neo-Plasticism’ (‘Le Néo-Plasticisme’). He stayed faithful to this artform to his death in American exile. The final vibrant work of Mondrian, ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ (1942–1944), which was also seen in the exhibition, has remained unfinished. In his contribution to the catalog, Max Bill positioned Piet Mondrian in the lineage of great Dutch painters (‘measure of modern painting’). He accorded him the same significance as Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Of central importance was his departure from the early conventional works in favor of an ‘art without an object’ (Mondrian in an essay of 1938). Bill described Mondrian’s change as an exemplary, radiant story of purification and emancipation: The artist practically worked his way through van Gogh, Munch, Cubism and Fauvism, always searching for artistic truth and order, a search than then had to end in his ascetic late style. The exhibition had a wide reception in Switzerland and neighboring countries. The collector Kurt Sponagel stated in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: ‘Thus, it seems that the meaning and the mission of this act of creation consolidate into wanting to oppose a confused world of events with purity and stillness.’ Negative opinions, which were however in the minority, called Mondrian’s art, for example, ‘an apotheosis of flat painting’ (Die Tat).
no exhibition catalog online
The collector Kurt Sponagel stated in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: 'Thus, it seems that the meaning and the mission of this act of creation consolidate into wanting to oppose a confused world of events with purity and stillness.'