David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of early paintings by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) at the gallery's London location. Curated by Karsten Schubert, the exhibition will provide a concise view of the artist's figurative landscape paintings from 1900-1905, highlighting the period prior to his involvement with De Stijl and Neo-Plasticism, for which he is most known. The selection of works, which depict the Dutch countryside outside of Amsterdam, reflect Mondrian's lifelong interest in nature and represent some of the earliest examples in his evolution toward increasingly geometric abstractions. This is the first exhibition ever to focus on this particular period of Mondrian's oeuvre, and the first presentation of the artist's work at the gallery.
The dense, small-scale paintings included in this exhibition mark a highly prolific period in Mondrian's engagement with figurative landscape painting–an early but deeply significant stage in the artist's methodical progression from naturalistic representation to complete grid-based abstraction. Prior to moving to Paris in 1911 at age 39, Mondrian spent the early part of his life in his native country of the Netherlands, where he attended the National Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam from 1892 to 1897. While landscape painting was discouraged at the Academy in favor of still lifes or figure studies, Mondrian spent much of his free time exploring and sketching the countryside around Amsterdam, focusing in particular on trees, canals, irrigation ditches, and farm buildings, which he rendered on paper and canvas with dynamic realism. As he remarked later in his career, "Nature (or what I see) inspires me, gives me, as it gives all painters, the emotion which brings forth creative élan, but I am seeking to approach truth as closely as possible, and to abstract everything from it until I reach the foundations (always visible foundations!) of things. That for me is truth…"¹ His paintings, which were executed both en plein air and in the studio, employ thick pigmented strokes applied with great virtuosity, revealing a style that is at once free and highly constructed.