One of the most famous Dutch artists is Piet Mondrian. As fans of modern art, Jacob and I were excited about seeing Mondrian’s most famous works in the Netherlands. This post will cover key locations to retrace Mondrian’s life in the Netherlands (and abroad!), the best museums to see Mondrian’s work in the Netherlands, and his history.
- Who was Piet Mondrian?
- The best museums to see Mondrian’s work in the Netherlands
I received complimentary admission to the Mondrian House and the Gemeentemuseum thanks to a collaboration with Visit Utrecht Region and This is the Hague, however this article was independently written.
Who was Piet Mondrian?
Piet Mondrian (sometimes spelled Mondriaan) was a famous Dutch painter who was born in Amersfoort in 1872. His father, a school teacher, lived in a leaky house next to a canal often used for beer making in the past. (Today, that house in Amersfoort is home to the Mondrian House.) The standard of living was far from ideal, so his father chose to move the family to Winterswijk (where you can visit the Villa Mondrian Museum).
Mondrian’s uncle was a very talented landscape painter who taught Piet Mondrian how to paint. Mondrian’s uncle was part of the Hague school of painting, who has their own rich history of painting. Mondrian studied in Amsterdam at the National Academy of Art and specialized in still lifes. The Mondrian House has a number of his early works, which are nice, but quite different than what we know him for.
Early in his career, he moved to Brabant, where he started changing his painting style. Later, he moved to a part of Amsterdam that is now a sleepy of suburb although
One of Mondrian’s most crucial pieces was The Grey Tree, which is within the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague. This radically simple painting marks his descent into modernism although one of the true highlights of the Gemeentemuseum is observing how his painting style dramatically changed over time.
Shortly after this period, he moved to Paris 1912 to be among some of the most famous painters of the 20th century. He starts to be influenced by Cubist painting ideas although World War I forced him to remain within the Netherlands. This period was a decisive period for Mondriaan who met Theo van Doesburg, who was one of the fathers of De Stijl. (De Stijl’s influence extended from paintings to architecture.) Mondrian was a key part of the magazine of De Stijl, which was an explorative means of discussing this new type of design. However, Mondrian ended up breaking with De Stijl only a year after getting heavily involved.
Mondrian returned to Paris, to a studio that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, and pioneered the Neoplasticism concept. This is when many of Mondrian’s most famous works were starting to be produced. (A recreation of his Paris studio is within the Mondrian house, which is pretty wild!)
At this point, he started using the distinctive black lines and primary colors that define his work as the public knows it today. Finally, Mondrian was recognized on the world stage although Nazism forced him to leave Europe. His last years’ in New York were some of his most productive although he never finished his masterpiece, Victory Boogie Woogie, which now hangs in the Geementemuseum in the Hague.
The best museums to see Mondrian’s work in the Netherlands (and abroad)
Gemeentemuseum in the Hague
There are three museums in the Netherlands that specialize in Mondrian’s work. I have visited 2/3,
Most importantly, the Geemeentemuseum own the Victory Boogie Woogie, Mondriaan’s unfinished work, which gives a great insight into his working process and those perfect black lines. I was really surprised by the collection and the museum’s collection of art is diverse enough that even if your travel mates don’t love Mondrian, they have a beautiful collection of Delftse Blauw vases and modern art from this era.
As a native New Yorker, I’m terribly spoiled in the regard that I grew up viewing Mondrian’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which is one of the premier modern art art museums in the world. They feature some of Mondrian’s best modern works next to his famous contemporaries, such as Picasso. If you enjoy Mondrian’s work, I strongly recommend visiting the MoMa museum!
I have also visited Mondrian’s childhood home in Amersfoort,
I haven’t visited his other childhood home in Villa Mondrian in Winterswijk, which is all the way in the east of the Netherlands near the German border. I understand their collection is similarly limited as the Mondrian’s house, but worthwhile for fans who want insight into his life.
Note: the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has a few of Mondrian’s works. I recommend visiting if you want to visit the museum otherwise, but the collection pales in comparison to that of the Hague. (If you love modern art from this period, you can also visit the M.C. Escher Museum in the Hague!)