Room 4: Dynamic Equilibrium

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue 1927

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue 1927

Museum Folkwang, Essen

During his lifetime, Mondrian repeatedly defended neoplasticism from misinterpretation. One of the most common comments was that he had brought painting to its conclusion. In fact, Mondrian continued to innovate, pushing the boundaries of his practice ever further. One major factor in his ability to do this was his rejection of preconceived models of compositional harmony. He worked intuitively, composing by eye and not by measurement: none of his compositions can be reduced to a mathematical calculation. Frequently he worked on small series of paintings together and the most subtle difference between one painting and another can have a huge result on its overall effect. 

The impact of Mondrian’s studio experimentation can also be seen in the paintings in this room, the compositions of which are dominated by open structures, with hardly any planes completely bound by lines. Mondrian pushed his areas of colour to the edge, as if they might expand outwards forcing the internal arrangement into dialogue with the external environment. Photographs of his studio from the late 1920s reveal that each surface was covered in panels of coloured cardboard, the compositions of which informed his painting. 

Just as he imagined his studio to be a dynamic environment, Mondrian rejected the idea of static forms of balance and harmony in his paintings. To reinforce this, in the early 1930s Mondrian began to use the seemingly contradictory phrase ‘dynamic equilibrium’, by which he expressed his view that art can reveal to us what he described as ‘the perpetual movement of changing oppositions’ instead of continually repeating established formulae.