Citizens of The Hague may have noticed a colour shift in the city since the beginning of February. Some red, blue, yellow and white squares have popped up everywhere, either hugely exhibited or in subtil touches here and there. Once you pay attention, you will see them covering your favorite buildings, hanging in the streets or even floating on the water. If one did not already know about it, this is an excellent introduction to the artwork of Piet Mondriaan.
If you feel like combining an art and city trip to The Hague, why not follow this Mondriaan’s trail? And if you know of other places featuring Mondriaan’s art in the city, share them with us and we will add them to the map!
Wait, who’s Mondriaan?
Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944) is a Dutch painter, who is internationally renowned for his abstract art featuring primary colours and black straight lines. He has worked in Amsterdam, Paris, London and spent the end of his life in New York. It is lesser known however that the focus of his early career was on painting landscapes, clearly moving to a more abstract style through time – some of these paintings are on display at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague (such as “Mill; Mill in sunlight”, 1908). His particular patterns have transcended generations and are still alive today. He has been a source of inspiration for many designers in architecture and interior design, and even entered into the fashion world with Yves Saint Laurent and his dresses.
In 1917, Mondriaan was one of the founders and models of the design and artistic movement De Stijl, a group of Dutch artists recognised around the globe for their similar abstract work. It all started when Theo van Doesburg launched “De Stijl” magazine for which many artists contributed, thus defining the essence of the movement. These nearly 100 artists had in common a neoplasticism style – the use of straight lines and primary colours.
Gemeentemuseum in The Hague to host De Stijl 100 years exhibition
The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague is home to the largest Mondriaan and De Stijl collection, its around 300 masterpieces including Victory Boogie Woogie (1942-1944), his last and unfinished work painted in New York. This extensive collection presents visitors Mondriaan’s slow shift to primary colours and from representational to abstract art. To celebrate the centenary anniversary of De Stijl, the museum will host 4 themed exhibitions in 2017, each focusing on a different aspect of the artistic movement, thus allowing visitors to apprehend its history and impact on today’s design. A dedicated website also provides information and material related the major periods in Mondriaan’s work.
The first 4-month exhibition is dedicated to the genesis of De Stijl with a focus on the influential friendship between Piet Mondriaan and Bart van der Leck. Through paintings, letters, photographs and videos, visitors discover how both artists developed their work towards abstraction. Although their two approaches are different in essence, their art merged to gradually define the principles of neoplasticism.
From June to September 2017, the Gemeentemuseum will host two other exhibitions still in the frame of the centenary anniversary of De Stijl, namely “The architecture and interiors of De Stijl” and “The discovery of Mondriaan”.
Mondriaan to Dutch Design: creative promotional & awareness raising campaign
In 2016, The Netherlands paid tribute to Hieronymus Bosch with a exceptional exhibition hosted by the Noordbrabant Museum in Den Bosch (see Beppe’s article). The theme for 2017 is “Mondriaan to Dutch Design. 100 years of De Stijl” for which many Dutch cities are organising special exhibitions and events in honor of Mondriaan and De Stijl – although the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague remaining at the center of all festivities. The city of The Hague already praised Mondriaan by constructing a remarkable and prominent building characteristic of his style for its educational institute named ROC Mondriaan.
On the occasion of the 100th year anniversary of De Stijl, the city decided to take a step further and implemented a well-thought promotional campaign and dedicated events throughout the year. So as to raise the citizens’ awareness, Mondriaan’s patterns are displayed in every nook and cranny of the city, be it on buildings, shops, or cultural venues. All shops have received a toolkit with guidelines on how to participate in the initiative by gluing Mondriaan-style stickers in their shopping windows. The highlight of this innovative approach is the artwork done on the municipality building, which is the largest Mondriaan painting ever done!