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Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Works from the Collection of Elaine G. Weitzen, Sold to Benefit the Elaine G. Weitzen Foundation For Fine Arts
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

Amaryllis

Details
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Amaryllis
signed and dated 'PIET MONDRIAN 1907' (lower left)
watercolor, black Conté crayon and pencil on card
18 ¾ x 12 ¾ in. (47.6 x 32.4 cm.)
Provenance
Zoe Dusanne Gallery, Seattle (acquired from the artist, 1942-1943).
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, 1964).
Harold Diamond, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1965.
Literature
O. Morisani, L'astrattismo di Piet Mondrian, Venice, 1956, p. 193, no. 3 (illustrated).
M. Seuphor, Piet Mondrian: Life and Work, New York, 1956, p. 417, no. 198 (illustrated, p. 370, fig. 158).
C.L. Ragghianti, Mondrian e l'arte del XX secolo, Milan, 1963, no. 216 (illustrated).
D. Shapiro, Mondrian: Flowers, New York, 1991, p. 62 (illustrated in color, p. 63; dated 1909).
J.M. Joosten, Mondrian: Catalogue Raisonné of the Work of 1911-1944, New York, 1998, vol. II, p. 474, no. C34 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Piet Mondrian, November 1964-January 1965, no. 26 (illustrated; dated 1910-1911).
New Jersey, Bergen Museum of Art and Science, Plants, Aesthetics and Applications, August-October 1986.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Mondrian: Flowers in American Collections, March-July 1991, no. 9 (dated 1920s).

Lot Essay

“It is in flowers that external feminine beauty manifests itself most effectively.” -Piet Mondrian

In early 1926, the Hungarian photographer André Kertész accepted an invitation from Mondrian, arranged through Michel Seuphor, a mutual friend, to visit the artist in his studio at 26, rue du Départ. The best known among the photographs that Kertész took that day is one that Seuphor likely suggested, showing a ceramic vase holding a lone artificial tulip, both painted stark white like the walls of Mondrian’s studio. The flower in Kertész’s Chez Mondrian reveals the essence of the place, the art and the man himself. Here is a symbol of the natural world, from which Mondrian had banished all semblance of its organic origins, having re-created it as a distillation of pure, abstract form, yielding a monochrome relic of stark artifice.
Mondrian Flowers in American Collections, the first major exhibition devoted to the artist’s body of work in this genre, took place 47 years after his death, at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, in 1991, and subsequently travelled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Published concurrently was the first monograph on this subject, David Shapiro’s Mondrian: Flowers, New York, 1991, in which the author situated these works within the larger context of the artist’s Neo-Plasticist oeuvre, casting light on a largely unknown side of the artist’s creative process, and thereby enriching our understanding of his achievement. Shapiro found in the flowers “uneasy ‘figure-studies’ of the feminine…His flowers offer personal metaphors of his isolation and attempts to control an image of the feminine. He decoded this when he referred to the tulip in his studio as a sign for a woman…While the flowers are always acts of attention and observation, the suggestive and the allegorized feminine is another pole of this art. A flower, one might say, is both a geometrical demonstration of nature’s logic and an escape from the ‘tragic’ element of sexual imagery into delicacy…One might add that Mondrian’s sexual melancholy is something he learns to control, like Cézanne, with great difficulty, but that it exerts a constant pressure on his art…We might think of Mondrian’s abstractions as forms of a gigantic controlling mechanism” (op. cit., pp. 15, 24, 25 and 26).
“There is, in the flowers, observation, tact, and reserve; there is architecture and geometry; there is also the memory of a dream,” Shapiro further explained. “This multiplicity, what we may call the radiant pluralism of these images, is perhaps the meaning of Mondrian’s serialism. The flowers are not simply a grouping born of financial need. Mondrian returned to them…because of a great need that had not been resolved by the abstractions. They remained with their emotional curves a powerful force to trouble him. In a sense, these works confirm Mondrian in his own self-impression that he was the true Surrealist. They speak of mad love, in tones as rare and yet direct as any incantation of those poets of the unconscious and of self-consciousness itself” (ibid., p. 29).

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