Though no longer young, Van der Leck was not prepared to rest on his laurels. Around the mid 1950s, when he was almost 80 years old, he finally - or perhaps again - started producing completely non-figurative compositions. Though this must have come as a surprise at the end of a career spanning so many years, he may have done so for a number of reasons, all of which are related to the revival of De Stijl shortly after the war, or more accurately, the appreciation it finally received in the Netherlands. The reappraisal was prompted by the international - predominantly American - world and the public at large. In 1945, the Museum of Modern Art in New York launched the first museum retrospective of his work, and was followed soon afterwards by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In 1947/48, Nelly van Doesburg (1899-1975) persuaded seven American museums to mount a retrospective of her husband's work. In the summer of 1951, the Stedelijk Museum mounted the long-awaited first retrospective of De Stijl. This exhibition represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale the following year, before going on to the MoMA in New York. The committee responsible for preparing these exhibitions comprised several former contributors to the publication, plus Nelly van Doesburg. However, Van der Leck was not invited to join. These preparations and the exhibitions themselves inspired a 'documentary review' of the journal and its associates by H.L.C. Jaffé, which led to the publication of his highly praised dissertation in 1956.
Though Van der Leck had also had his first retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in the spring of 1949, he must nevertheless have felt pushed aside by the tremendous interest that De Stijl in general, and particularly Mondrian and Van Doesburg (whose work he considered dubious) had managed to generate. This may have prompted his decision to convince the world that he was capable of painting completely non-representational compositions. The seven abstract paintings he completed in the last four years of his life (besides ten more 'conventional' works - he literally had a final spurt) prove that he indeed mastered this idiom.
Late and small canvases like Red Triangle from 1958 and the present lot were made for private use. These works hardly left his studio and have never been officially exhibited during his life. Without even realizing it himself, his late development showed an amazing affinity with a young and new generation of abstract painters.
We kindly thank Cees Hilhorst for his help in cataloguing the present lot.