Art Appreciation: Piet Mondrian

Art Appreciation: Piet Mondrian

This week we’re looking at the works of Piet Mondrian.  

Step 1: Who?

The first thing you need to know is how to say it. Mondrian was Dutch, so apparently the correct pronunciation is something like Peet Mon-dree-an, but you can listen to a real Dutch speaker say it here:  PRONUNCIATION

Start by looking at Piet Mondrian’s Wikipedia page to get his basic information: PIET MONDRIAN WIKIPEDIA

Here is a link to his website where you’ll find even more detailed information: PIET MONDRIAN

Talk about his family life. What interesting facts can you find?

Step 2: Where?

Mondrian was born in Amersfoort, Netherlands, so look that up on a map.  He moved a bit, so take a look at other places in his life and find them on your map.  Can you find where he died?  Think about the changes in his life that would have come with a move across the world.

Step 3: When?

Look at the years Mondrian lived.  Check your timeline to see what was happening in the world during the years he lived.

Step 4: What?

Now let’s look at his work.

I’ve deliberately chosen Mondrian for week 2 because he is a huge contrast with Van Gogh’s approach.

Mondrian is mostly known for his cool graphic paintings in blocks of color.  Consider his most famous piece. It’s called, “Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow” (1930)

This may seem like a very simple painting, and it is, but there’s more to these abstract pieces than you might think.  Mondrian’s purpose was to boil down a scene to its basic elements, so sky might be the block of blue, a tree a block of green, a person a block of red, and so on.  Keep in mind, though, that nothing is meant to be an exact representation. It’s just elements of nature in a different form. It’s an art form known as Neoplasticism.  You can learn more about it here if you want more in depth information: De Stijl

But, Mondrian developed this abstract style later in his life, so his pieces evolve over time.  Use his WikiArt Page: MONDRAIN WIKIART to show you his works in chronological order so you can see the progression from more representational art to the abstract approach.

When you get to the abstract pieces discuss with your student why Mondrian might have decide to try this style. What does he gain by it?  How does it make you feel about the subject?

Ask your student which he prefers – the representational painting, or the abstract?  Let him explain exactly why. What is it about the style that is appealing or off-putting?  What would make it more or less attractive?

Here are two other pieces.  Consider the contrast in style. Can you see in the first painting some beginnings of movement toward the second?

Mondrian – “Evening – The Red Tree” (1908-10)

Mondrian – “Tableau I” (1921)


Step 5: Do!

Now it’s time to try painting in the Mondrian style yourselves.  Set up a “still life” with a few brightly colored items from your daily life – an apple, orange, can of green beans, etc.  Anything is fine, as long as it is brightly colored. Then let your student try to represent the items in the abstract way. If you want to get more sophisticated with it, draw lines to make blocks on the canvas first.  Then paint the black lines. Then fill in some of the spaces with bright colors.

Any way you do it, you can’t go wrong. Just have fun with it!

Step 6: Do More!

Finally, go on a Piet Mondrian scavenger hunt over the next few weeks.  Mondrian’s style has been copied so much that it’s become part of our culture and we don’t always recognize it, so see if you can find it in your daily surroundings or as you go about your life. Are there things at the store that are reminiscent of Mondrian’s blocks?  Have you seen the shoes or a dress in the block color style? Once you start looking you’ll see it!

Step 7: Additional Resources for more ideas:

There aren’t a lot of resources on Mondrian for children, but this book looks like a good one:

Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (Artist Tribute) by Wouter van Reek

Let me know if you use it or tell me all about your Mondrian Art experience by leaving me a comments here or on our Facebook page. The links are at the right. >>>


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