In 1917, Piet Mondrian helped to found the Dutch art group de Stijl (the Style), among the most idealistic and severe of the early Abstract movements. Driven by more than aesthetics, de Stijl aimed to unite the material and spiritual worlds through an art of pure geometry.
For Mondrian, a grid-pattern composition of horizontal and vertical lines could represent the universal harmony of the world. He saw the grid as a resolution to the opposing demands of the material and spiritual. Although Composition with Grid 1, 1918 appears to be a random sequence of squares and rectangles, X-ray photography has revealed that Mondrian first sketched a perfectly uniform grid of rectangles based on the classical golden section. This underlying grid then formed the scaffolding for the superimposed composition, giving the work an exceptional harmony of proportion. A nuance of mood and tone is established through the variations in gray and ochre glazes so that the ultimate effect is one of subtly shifting planes of color.