Everyone probably recognizes a Mondrian: a combination of squares and red, yellow or blue rectangles, separated by chalk-drawn black lines, painted by the late artist in New York in 1944. Some funny amateurs even take pride in drawing colored squares and displaying them in their living room. Because Piet Mondrian is sometimes misunderstood. In the Kunstsammlung museum in Düsseldorf (Germany), the curator of an exhibition last fall discovered a work entitled New York City 1 hung upside down since 1941…
We know less that the artist, an important figure in modern art, started in the early 20se century, by painting lovely landscapes, trees, rivers and windmills in the peaceful Dutch countryside. BEE Abcoude, a place in the province of Utrecht that has now been overtaken by the conurbation of Amsterdam, photographer Nienke Meek, passionate about art, tells about this little-known episode.
Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam, Pieter Cornelis Mondrian, who was not yet called Piet Mondrian, “dreamed of making money doing portraits, but he wasn’t very good at it. On the advice of a friend, he switched to landscapes, took the train with his easel and got off at the first station, Abcoude »says the photographer. At the same time, after a short train journey, Parisian artists seized the light and brilliance of the Seine at Saint-Germain-en-Laye or Vésinet.
The old station of Abcoude, an elegant white building, has been transformed into a hotel. This is where the “Mondriaan route” starts, which Nienke Meek lets you visit by bike or on foot along the Gein. In the middle of cultivated plots, immaculately aligned, this small river lined with weeping willows and covered with water lilies offers a bucolic landscape. Wealthy families in Amsterdam had become accustomed, with the railway, to spending the summer in red brick houses, both austere and hospitable. Impressive windmills with wide blades, which the Dutch have been making since the end of the Middle Ages to pump water from the polders, complete the panorama.
Mobile easel, on wheels
In 1902 we already traveled by bicycle in the Netherlands. The young painter had converted his into a mobile easel, stabilized with crutches. Sitting on the saddle, he made sketches before returning to his studio to paint the colors. “He suppressed the details, played with the lights. Instead of depicting reality, he preferred to express his emotions through painting.says Nienke Meek, showing images of the paintings in a small notebook.
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