Artwork of the month December

Piet Mondrian, Tableau No. VIII with Yellow, Red, Black and Blue, 1925, Hilti Art Foundation

Piet Mondrian

* 1872 Amersfoort, Netherlands, † 1944 New York, USA

Tableau No. VIII with Yellow, Red, Black and Blue, 1925

Oil on canvas

53.2 × 46.2cm (incl. frame, not original)

Hilti Art Foundation

Piet Mondrian's goal as an artist was to reveal the "universal" as a unity of truth and beauty. The artist believed that it was, however, not possible to visualise this by depicting natural objects, but "only through abstract and concrete design". Mondrian reduced his compositional devices to line, area and colour to such a rigorous degree that he ultimately only allowed lines to be vertical and horizontal, while areas had to be rectangles, and colours only primary. Nonetheless he did not aspire to any kind of strict formalism, but rather sought a lively balance. Inspired by Hegel's dialectic, he was convinced that everything becomes "real" only through its connection with its opposite.

The creation of a dialectic balance of compositional devices as an extract derived from the diversity of form and colour in nature was something that Mondrian achieved only in small steps. The realisation, for instance, that the juxtaposition of yellow, red and blue areas of colour results in differing impressions of depth, contradicted his notion of painting as a strictly two-dimensional art. In order to neutralise this effect, he embedded them within a grid of regular black lines. The static structure of this grid did not, however, correspond with his wish for a lively order, and so he moved on to assembling lines, areas and colours freely into finely balanced "compositions".

Tableau No. VIII has all the typical features of his artistic convictions. It is one of the "peripheral" compositions: the large white rectangle (not a square!) takes up so much surface space that the smaller areas of colour are pushed to the edge of the picture. All of the bright colours "permitted" are present here, but only once each. As in all of his pictures, Piet Mondrian has consciously avoided any centring or symmetry; he has achieved balance in the composition without using calculations or mathematical rules, instead acting intuitively with playful combinations. The canvas protrudes from the frame, so giving the picture the status of an object.

Uwe Wieczorek

<b>Piet Mondrian, Tableau No. VIII with Yellow, Red, Black and Blue, 1925, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.