PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944)
PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944)
PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944)
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PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944)


PIET MONDRIAN (1872-1944)
signed 'P MONDRIAAN' (lower left)
gouache and watercolor over pencil on paper laid down on card
12 1/4 x 7 7/8 in. (31 x 19.8 cm.)
(possibly) S.B. Slijper, Blaricum, The Netherlands.
(possibly) J.P. Smid, Amsterdam (1967).
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, January 1979.
D. Shapiro, Mondrian: Flowers, New York, 1991, p. 45 (illustrated in color; dated circa 1908-1909).
J.M. Joosten, Piet Mondrian: Catalogue Raisonné of the Work of 1911-1944, New York, 1998, vol. II, p. 480, no. C57 (illustrated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, French Masters, December 1973-January 1974, no. 54 (dated 1908).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Mondrian Flowers in American Collections, March-July 1991, no. 10 (dated 1920s).

Lot Essay

“It is in flowers that external feminine beauty manifests itself most effectively.” -Piet Mondrian
Chrysant is a splendid example of Mondrian’s early naturalistic exploration of the botanical. Here, the artist captures a sense of the ethereal and transient beauty of a singular flower at the peak of its life cycle, with its delicate petals caught moments before it begins to wilt. Decontextualizing the flower from its surroundings, Mondrian emphasizes the tender nature of the chrysanthemum’s bloom, the soothing blue coloring of its petals echoed in the palette of the surrounding space. Emerging from the pale blue mist of the background, its stem nearly dissolving at the bottom of the sheet, the flower at the heart of the composition simultaneously exhibits both a skillful, empirical rendering of the details of the flower, as well as a symbolic power that imbues the painting with an otherworldly atmosphere. Through its sensual curves and soft blue tonalities, the artist breaks the continuity of his renowned geometric compositions. Appearing for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century, the artist’s flower motif resurfaced in the early 1920’s during the heydays of the triumphant radical abstractions, termed Neo-Plasticism.
The present work was one of thirty-seven works included in the first major exhibition devoted to this genre within the artist’s body of work. Mondrian Flowers in American Collections took place 47 years after his death at the Sidney Janis Gallery, in 1991. Published concurrently was the first monograph on this subject, David Shapiro’s Mondrian: Flowers, in which the author situated these works within the larger context of the artist’s Neo-Plasticist oeuvre. Here, Shapiro sheds light on a largely unknown side of the artist’s creative process, thus enriching our understanding of his mastery of depiction. 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 Cezanne, 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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