By 1920 the abstract grid had become the foundation of Mondrian's pictorial style, and in that year the artist wrote the pamphlet Neo-Plasticisme to promulgate the goals of the Dutch Die Stijl movement. Mondrian found it difficult, however, to interest collectors of his earlier work in his most recent efforts, and during the early 1920s he suffered from an acute lack of income.
Fortunately, Mondrian's Dutch dealer Simon Maris still had an eager market for the painter's early naturalistic works in Holland, especially his studies of flowers. Mondrian resumed painting the flowers in 1920, mainly chrysanthemums, lilies, roses and amaryllis, which he sold for 30 or 40 florins apiece. Ironically, those who remember his studio on the rue des Départ in Paris say that Mondrian had no flowers on hand except for a single artificial tulip, a subject he did not paint, but he kept in a round vase.
Although his treatment in the flower studies is naturalistic, these works retain strong overtones of symbolism. "It has been suggested that Mondrian's use of the chrysanthemum symbolically refers to human mortality as found in the literary symbolist tradition of Western Europe, for example in Maeterlinck. Its use by Mondrian could just as easily have meant to suggest overtones of life-giving vitality. Into it could be read a symbolism of moral uprightness, royal dignity and sturdiness, in Far-Eastern countries associated with the eastern type of chrysanthemum [e.g. Japan, where the chrysanthemum is the symbol of the emperor]" (R. Welsh, B. Bakkers and M. Bax, 1892/1912 Piet Mondriaan: The Amsterdam Years, exh. cat., Gemeentearchief, Amsterdam, 1994, p. 110).