“Mondrian and Colour – Turner Contemporary”

From the Announcement in the Spring 2014 Newsletter :

“Turner Contemporary offers an exclusive UK viewing of the first major exhibition to consider the significance of colour during Piet Mondrian’s early career. “Mondrian and Colour” explores Mondrian’s (1872-1944) practice, tracing the painter’s use of colour from figuration to early abstraction.

Bringing together around 40 paintings by the artist from the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag and other collections in Europe and the USA, the exhibition will demonstrate that Mondrian’s abstract works were not simply mathematical exercises in form but also expressed his search for a new universal harmony.

For additional information please visit : www.turnercontemporary.org ”

Report by John Boldero on our visit to Turner Contemporary, Margate, 14 June 2014

A highly-select group of Anglo-Netherlands Society members met recently on the site of J.W. Turner’s girlfriend’s B&B on the seashore at Margate. No trace of the boarding house remains but in its place stands the Turner Contemporary, a gallery dedicated to a local boy made good, or rather very good, for few, if any, English artists command the respect of non-English artists and critics in the way that Turner does. His seascapes remain works of a world standard and the gallery has one painting in particular, his “Wreck, (possibly related to Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End)”, which masterly combines three of the Elements, Air, Sea and Fire, at their most elemental.

Although in company with Turner as a master of a particular style, Mondrian in his creative life embraced a wider variety of ideas, media and influences. His work in watercolours, as well as oils, is very accomplished, while the artistic influences on his work came most notably from van Gogh, Matisse, Braque, Picasso and Seurat before he moved towards the linear style which came to exemplify his later work. The exhibition at Margate, drawing extensively on works housed at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, demonstrates the traditionalism of his early and middle period, an emphasis on landscapes, warm colours, a painterly style, not at all loose.

However in the early years of the Twentieth century he became more influenced by theosophy, with its obsessiveness of approach, where colours were codes, with red depicting affection and blue devotion. With this came a paring down of his style, becoming increasingly angular and with the influence of cubism more prevalent.

From these, his trademark characteristics began to dominate, black lines , at first jumbled but increasingly geometric, grids and the complete absence of green in favour of red, yellow, blue and white, the building blocks for all other colours in the world.

As well as being influenced by others , he was a character in his own right, a co-founder of the art journal and movement, De Stijl, with Theo van Doesburg, a lover of dancing, an aficionado of jazz, writing treatises on it and a regular at the jazz café, Le Bœuf sur le Toit, alongside Jean Cocteau and Josephine Baker. He was an associate of Ben Nicholson in London (see AN Newsletter Spring 2012 ) , exploring the potential of abstract art as a departure point for new forms of expression, friends with Peggy Guggenheim and fellow exiles in New York, such as Chagall and Ernst.

Having embraced so many styles, he was capable of innovation right up to the end of his life, evidenced by his Boogie Woogie pictures, where the influence of swing and other new music forms which he loved and loved to dance to, was beginning to pull him away yet again to new styles and approaches.

Many thanks to our guide, Amanda (Mandy) for our most informative tour and to Marianne Denney for the arrangements for the visit and the very convivial lunch at the gallery, overlooking the grand sweep of the beaches and the Kentish coast.

* The caption and credits to the Red Mill are as follows :  Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)  Molen (Mill); The Red Mill , 1911  Oil on canvas, 150 cm x 86 cm  Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands  © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA

photo shows a few members in the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate