The austerely abstract style of Mondrian’s grid paintings restricts itself to straight horizontal and vertical lines, and the rectangular shapes resulting from their crossing; their palette is simply black, white, and the primaries: red, yellow, and blue. The artist’s intuitive arrangement of these elementary pictorial means in balance and harmony expressed his concept of “dynamic equilibrium.” He wrote: “Observing sea, sky, and stars, I sought to indicate their plastic function through a multiplicity of crossing verticals and horizontals. . . . The clarification of equilibrium through plastic art is of great importance for humanity. It reveals that although human life in time is doomed to disequilibrium, notwithstanding this, it is based on equilibrium. It demonstrates that equilibrium can become more and more living in us.” Begun in 1939 in London, where Mondrian had fled from Paris the year before, Abstraction was completed in New York, where he arrived in 1940 to escape the quickly spreading dangers of World War II. The Axis attack on Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, took place just as he put the finishing touches to the work for a January 1942 exhibition. In most respects Abstraction is one of the culminating paintings in a stark, hallmark mode that Mondrian had developed by 1921 in dialogue with his fellow Dutch artists of the De Stijl movement. But a new sense of adventure, characteristic of Mondrian’s final New York works, is expressed in such details as the absence of black bordering lines for the red rectangles located along the right and bottom edges. Abstraction retains its vibrant, unvarnished surface and also its original frame. Mondrian himself claimed, as far as he knew, to be the first artist to bring the painting forward from the frame rather than setting it within; in so doing, he eliminated the tendency of the traditional frame to lend an illusionistic depth to the painting. The wide, recessed borders enhance the ease and safety of handling his works and also harmonize with their spare aesthetic.


  • Title: Abstraction
  • Creator: Piet Mondrian, Piet Mondrian
  • Date: 1939
  • Date Created: 1939/1942
  • Physical Dimensions: 29 1/2 x 26 3/4 in. (74.9 x 67.9 cm)
  • Provenance: COLLECTION RECORDINGS CONSERVATION PROVENANCE (Valentine Gallery), New York, 1942; purchased by Mr. and Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd; (sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 11 May 1994, lot 31); (Acquavella Contemporary Art, Inc., New York); purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1994.
  • Type: Painting
  • Original Source: Kimbell Art Museum
  • Rights: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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