Mondrian Trees

Elgar states that "until 1908, Mondrian's canvases were those of a not too gifted painter subject to the naturalism traditionally favoured in his country of origin. They in no way foreshadow the providential creator who was one day to revolutionise the fundamental laws of painting. Later, a sudden blaze of lyricism gives animation to his pictures. His touch is lighter, his colour brighter, richer and, on occasion, quite as violent as that of the French fauves. In 1909 he started his series of Trees in which his art, shortly to be influenced by cubism, moved gradually from the figurative to the non figurative."

Introducing Postmodernism

Introducing Postmodernism, by Appignanesi and Garratt, is a dense but rewarding read. It includes this entry on Mondrian.

I'll show a lot of the tree images here, but for now a few to go on with.

A658-A662, Tree Forms
A658 Row of Eleven Polars in Red, Yellow, Blue and Green, 1908
Oil on canvas, 69x112 cm
Heino, the Netherlands, Stichting Hannema-De Stuers Fundatie, purchased from Pieter de Dood, Mondrians's cigar supplier.
A660 Five Tree Silhouettes along the Gein with Moon, 1907-08
Oil on canvas, 79x92.5 cm
Haags Gemeentemuseum, gift of A.P. van der Briel
A663-A673, The Blue and Red Tree Themes
A672 Apple Tree in Blue: Tempera, 1908-09
Tempera on cardboard, 75.5x99.5 cm
Haags Gemeentemuseum, gift of C. Kickert
B3 Tree: Study for The Grey Tree, 1911
Black crayon on paper, 58x86 cm
Haags Gemeentemuseum
S322, O-, B217
B4 The Grey Tree, 1911
Oil on canvas, 79.7x109.1 cm
Haags Gemeentemuseum, S.B. Slijper bequest
S335, O249, B218
B15 Tree, 1912(?)
Oil on canvas, 75x111.5 cm
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, New York
S326, O248, B-

"Nothing shows the development of Mondrian's style better than the series of paintings based on trees which he started in 1908. In Red Tree the colour is almost Fauve, but the drawing is still realistic. Mondrian's chief concern in this painting is with the pattern-making possibilities of the spreading, leafless branches against a cloudless sky. These branches are shown by a number of interlocking lines on the canvas surface. Since they reach up to the edges, and since the line where the sky meets the ground is fuzzy and scarcely noticeable, the tree seems to have been painted from only a few feet away, as in a botanical diagram which shows the tree in cross-section. Few of the branches, for example, seem to project towards the spectator, instead they apear to spread either sideways or upwards.
Grey Tree and Flowering Apple Tree painted under the influence of Cubism, carry the process still further. In these paintings Mondrian is almost entirely concerned with idealised rhythmic patterns, only remotely based on natural forms. The sense of space or illusory depth is minimised. The horizon is either at the bottom of the painting or not there at all. The monochromatic treatment reduces the distinction between the sky, the earth and the tree still further. The painting in fact consists of curves representing trunks and horizontals representing the main direction of the branches."
Ian Dunlop in Mondrian: The Masters 68 (1967), Purnell & Sons.

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page started 4th September 2010