Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Property from a private Dutch collection
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

Landscape near Arnhem

Details
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Landscape near Arnhem
signed 'Piet Mondriaan' (lower right)
pencil, watercolor and gouache on paper
53.5 x 71.5 cm.
Executed circa 1903

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Lisa Snijders
Lisa Snijders

Lot Essay

The present lot, Landscape near Arnhem, is executed with exquisite technique. The watercolour has a beautiful balanced colour composition of greenish-blue tonalities, which gives it a dreamlike quality and serene tranquillity. The checkered pattern of fields recedes in the valley at the left, where the city of Arnhem is to be seen in the hazy distance. The watercolour was until recently unknown and only recently discovered. Remarkable is the similarity with a painting from around the same date, identified as Fields Overlooking Arnhem from the North (Welsh no. A 282). In both works one is able to identify a tiny tip of the steeple of the St. Eusebius Church in Arnhem, which is seen rising above the centre tree in the darkly silhouetted row of trees irregularly outlined against the horizon of the gentle slope. Moreover, more clearly visible is the steeple of the St. Martin’s Church beyond the left most tree at the lowest point of the sloping farmland and the twin towers of the St. Walburgis Church in close approximation from it on the right. The relatively high horizon of the drawing is characteristic of Mondrian landscapes circa 1900-02. Both the watercolour and the painting are exemplary of the transitional stage in Mondrian’s artistic development, moving from an ‘eclectic planar style’ circa 1900-02 to his ‘evening landscapes’ from about 1905-07. (R. P. Welsh and J. M. Joosten, Catalogue Raisonné of the Naturalistic Works (until early 1911), Blaricum, 1998, no. 267).

The present work is not merely an objective depiction of a view which Mondrian encountered in the hilly areas surrounding Arnhem, the city where his family resided from 1901 onwards after his father’s retirement. On the contrary, the deeply spiritual essence underlying nature intrigued Mondrian throughout his entire artistic career, as he wrote in a letter to H.P. Bremmer: “Nature (or what I see) inspires me, gives me, as it gives all painters, the emotion which brings forth creative e´lan, but I am seeking to approach truth as closely as possible, and to abstract everything from it until I reach the foundations (always visible foundations!) of things. That for me is truth…” (As quoted in H. Janssen and J. M. Joosten, eds., Mondrian, 1892-1914: The Path to Abstraction, Zwolle, 2002, p. 16). Discerning a mild structuring of the landscape, in Landscape near Arnhem one recognizes the beginnings of his tentative reflection upon the underlying ‘foundations’ of nature. Landscape near Arnhem testifies to Mondrian’s unwavering interest in nature’s deeper meaning and is representative of a valuable stage to his later abstractions.

To be included in the digital Catalogue Raisonné on the artist's work, currently being prepared by the RKD - Netherlands Institute for Art History.

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