6 June – 5 October 2014
Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) was one of the most important contributors to the development of abstract art at the beginning of the 20th century. Mondrian and his Studios, which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the artist’s death, will provide new insights into the artist’s practice, his relationship with architecture and urbanism, and his contribution to the development of modern thought. The exhibition will present a diverse group of key abstract paintings, alongside the life size reconstruction of Mondrian’sParis studio which will allow visitors to physically inhabit a replica of the unique environment that the artist created.
Mondrian and his Studios considers not only his importance in the field of abstraction, but also the complex relationship between his artworks and the space around them. The exhibition will focus on this connection between painting and architecture after Mondrian’s move to Paris in 1911, with a reconstruction of his studio at 26 Rue du Départ, Paris being a major highlight of the display. Mondrian’s studios in Amsterdam, Paris and New York all represented an ideal viewing space, described by the art historian Yves-Alain Bois as ‘an experimental expansion of the work and the condition for its accomplishment’. Each studio reflected different stages of the painter’s way of thinking and of his intentions: the studios themselves form a distinct strand of his work, alongside his painting and writing.
Drawings from Mondrian’s 1914 series Pier and Ocean will have particular resonance inLiverpool as they will be presented for visitors alongside the stunning views of the former Cunard liner piers seen from Tate Liverpool’s fourth floor riverside galleries. In the series, Mondrian investigates the surface of the sea and its plastic qualities, which led him to develop his abstract vocabulary: his drawings of the ocean and church facades helped him formulate the grid that became his signature abstract style. Significantly, Mondrian left Europe for New York on board the Cunard White Star Lines ship Samaria which departed Liverpool on 23 September 1940.
The exhibition will also investigate Mondrian’s broader relationship with architecture and urbanism, particularly through a comparison of his earlier Parisian works and those made in the frenetic modern cityscape of New York. Many of Mondrian’s best-known Neo-Plastic works will be exhibited: his own abstract painting style comprising straight lines and clearly defined primary colours, embraced by the Dutch avant-garde movement De Stjil of which Mondrian was a founder. This includes the painting No. VI / Composition No.II 1920 which can be clearly seen hanging on the wall above a doorway in two photographs taken of his studio at 26 Rue du Départ in the mid 1920s, and is now part of the Tate collection.
Tate Liverpool will be working closely with Plus Tate partner Turner Contemporary. Based in Margate, Turner Contemporary will present the exhibition Mondrian and Colour in collaboration with the Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg from 24 May – 21 September 2014. Mondrian and Colour explores the early period of the artist’s career, tracing the painter’s use of colour from figuration to early abstraction. Together, the exhibitions will focus the UK’s attention on this pioneer of abstract art, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of his death.
The exhibition is also timed to coincide with the launch of Liverpool’s International Festival for Business 2014. Mondrian and his Studios will fit into the cultural strand of the festival programme that has been specifically created to attract a wider and more diverse audience.
Mondrian and his Studios is curated by Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool with Dr Michael White, Reader in History of Art at the University of York, and Eleanor Clayton, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool.