40 Mondrian works in two major English exhibitions
From 24 May, no fewer than 40 Mondrians will be on display in two major exhibitions in England. The ‘Mondrian and Colour’ show in Turner Contemporary will consist almost exclusively of works from the Dutch museum from The Hague. Next month, ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ will open in Tate Liverpool. Very unusually, the shows will also include early pieces. The early work of Mondrian is seldom exhibited outside the Netherlands. During his recent visit to the Gemeentemuseum to see ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’, US President Barack Obama was also struck by these early gems and promised to come back to see them.
With 300 Mondrians, the Gemeentemuseum The Hague has the greatest collection of Mondrians in existence and is the only place in the world where it is possible to trace the artist’s entire journey from figuration to abstraction. Most foreign galleries prefer to show the better-known abstract paintings with their primary colours and black-and-white grids. Recently, British galleries show more interest in the early works of the Dutch pioneer of modern art. Especially after the ‘Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel’ show in The Courtauld Gallery (2012).
Early and colourful
Apart from Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg, the Turner Contemporary art gallery is one of the few institutions outside the Netherlands to exhibit Mondrian’s figurative early work. From the figurative ‘Church in Domburg’ (1909) and the self-portrait of 1918 right through to ‘Composition of Lines and Colours: III’ (1937). Also special is the keynote of the exhibition: colour. The Gemeentemuseum feels that colour is a constant in Mondrian’s work, whether in the early Dutch landscapes or in the clear-cut, flat colour planes of his more famous works. It is due to this focus on colour that early paintings like the vibrant ‘The Red Mill’ are being accorded a place of honour in the Margate exhibition.
Unique Mondrian collection
The Gemeentemuseum hopes that this will be the first of many such loans of Mondrian’s early work. “To understand Mondrian’s journey from figuration to abstraction, it is essential to know this part of his oeuvre”, says Gemeentemuseum curator Hans Janssen. When in the Netherlands, art lovers can follow the journey in The Hague. Gemeentemuseum director Benno Tempel: “Of course, the best place to see Mondrian will always be here.” The museum’s permanent ‘Mondrian and De Stijl’ section enables visitors to view his work side by side with that of the important contemporary group of artists and designers known as De Stijl. Mondrian’s final – unfinished – masterpiece, ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ (1942-1944), his great homage to the City of New York, also hangs in the Gemeentemuseum.
The ‘Mondrian and Colour’ exhibition is being organized by Turner Contemporary in collaboration with Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg and the Gemeentemuseum The Hague. Turner Contemporary is also collaborating with Tate Liverpool on the exhibition ‘Mondrian and his Studios’, which will also include works on loan from the Gemeentemuseum.