Mondrian and the Eternal Rectangle

In search of the transcendent, the Dutch painter created grids of red, blue and yellow that are very much with us

Since Piet Mondrian died 50 years ago, his influence has extended into our everyday lives through fashion, architecture, design — and always, through his bold and pure canvases. Born in the Netherlands in 1872, he lived for many years in France, where he worked through the challenges posed by Cubism to develop a style that, even today, looks modern. An intense man who loved to unwind by dancing to his jazz records, he sought a sense of universal harmony and balance in his paintings. Works such as Composition with Yellow and Blue, from 1932, with its vertical and horizontal lines on a white field, and its primary colors, are immediately recognizable as icons of 20th-century art.

A major retrospective of Mondrian's work will be on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from June 11 through September 4; it will then proceed to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (October 1 through January 23, 1996).

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