The Birth of Neoplasticism

“Feeling the lack of unity, I brought the rectangles together: space became white, black or grey; form became red, blue or yellow.”

Victory over Picasso and Braque

The war over, Mondrian returned to Paris in June 1919 and found his old study still locked up with his paintings still intact. He made the point of viewing the latest exhibitions of the time, but realised that something had changed. He found that there was nothing like the paintings he had made while in Amsterdam. His new pictorial form was all his own, and he was greatly disappointed to find that Picasso had returned to a more representational style. He slowly came to realise after reading the French writings on colour that he had achieved his goal of becoming the most abstract, and modern painter in his field having overtaken both Braque and Picasso.

This sudden realisation was short lived as it slowly dawned on him that the city he had once loved and the people who were close friends were now distant and the city had become very strange. His bitterness from the rejection in the Netherlands came to a head and he decided he no longer had anyone to paint for. He became overcome with loneliness at his own success and having no one to share it with. After contacting van Doesburg in 1920 and telling him of his plans to leave Paris and move to the South of France to work in the vineyards, he arranged one last exhibition – a farewell to his career as an artist.

From Abstraction to Style

This never happened… In-fact things turned out very differently! Mondrian remained in Paris, and his Dutch artist friends managed to secure him a modest, but regular income. A man known as Salomon Slijiper found clients for Mondrian’s flower paintings that he had begun to paint in large numbers.

In continuing changes to his life, Mondrian had gradually turned his studio into a model of the style adopted by the De Stijl circle. The style of De Stijl had come to be known as neoplasticism, a term coined by Mondrian to explain his painting. The walls became decorated and painted with large areas of colour with his paintings hanging between them, appearing as part of the pattern almost merging with the walls. What he had observed on his return to Paris was that there was now no distinction between art and decoration. In fact Picasso was painting theatre curtains for the latest plays.

It was in this time, at the end of the First World War, that Art Deco appeared in Paris and Mondrian chose to stay. It had now become virtually impossible to maintain that art was still dedicated to progress and spiritual values. Mondrian joined the trend of art for decoration and continued to evolve his artistic theories as well as creating an environment and lifestyle that represented the values that abstract art was meant to express.

The 1919 / 1920 year saw him concentrating on social engagements, friendships and writing about art theory.

Plate: The Middle Years: 1910-1929 - 11 - The Birth of Neoplasticism