Dutch painter Piet Mondrian was one of the early pioneers of abstraction. His grid paintings-using only black, white, and primary colors-are among the most recognizable symbols of modern art.
Mondrian was born near Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1872. He divided his time between the Netherlands and France until the onset of World War II, when he fled to London and New York to escape the Nazis.
Mondrian was raised Calvinist and joined the Theosophical Society, which believed that everything in the world comes from a single source and that spirit and matter are inseparable. He applied these ideas to his work by using images and color to reveal truths about the world.
In 1917 he, and fellow Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, published De Stijl, a magazine that explored the pure essence of line and color. From these ideas Mondrian developed Neo-Plasticism, which limited the palette to the three primary colors and a black grid on a white ground.
Each time Mondrian moved he transformed his studio, mounting colored panels on the walls, which many people have linked to his Neo-Plastic compositions. Scholars have stated that by his death his personality became inseparable from the environment of his studio.
He enjoyed moderate success during his lifetime, but his reputation grew considerably following his death in 1944. James H. and Lillian Clark of Dallas gave nine out of the twelve Mondrian paintings and drawings currently at the Dallas Museum of Art.