An expert’s guide to Piet Mondrian: four must-read books on the Dutch artist

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The abstract paintings of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) are so recognisable and copied that their art-historical significance can almost be overlooked. But a new exhibition, Mondrian Evolution, at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler, will revisit their importance by tracing how Mondrian came to develop his signature style of pared-back arrangements in primary colours. The exhibition’s co-curator, Ulf Küster, who has contributed to several books on the artist—including the exhibition catalogue and Mondrian: A-Z, which runs the gamut from Abstraction to Yves Saint Laurent—has selected four books that best capture Mondrian’s life and career.

Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Yellow and Blue (1932) © Mondrian/Holtzman Trust; Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Piet Mondrian: A New Art for a Life Unknown (2016)/ Piet Mondrian: A Life (2022, English version) by Hans Janssen

“Piet Mondrian was not a stern, eccentric hermit who sought refuge in the utopia of his art, as we discover in this biography. Hans Janssen, a Mondrian expert and long-time curator of Modern art at Kunstmuseum Den Haag, uses Mondrian’s paintings, photographs, letters, extracts from journals and conversations to reconstruct key moments in the life and work of the artist who changed the arts forever.”

Mondrian and De Stijl (2020) by Hans Janssen, Michael White and Marek Wieczorek

Mondrian and De Stijl (2020) by Hans Janssen, Michael White and Marek Wieczorek

Mondrian and De Stijl sets out a re-reading of the artist and his relationship with the De Stijl movement. The publication accompanies an exhibition underpinned by new theories and research to refute the modern image of autonomy and self-reference that has instructed the perception of Mondrian’s work for long enough.”

Mondrian and his Studios: Colour and Space (2014), edited by Francesco Manacorda

Mondrian and his Studios: Colour and Space (2014), edited by Francesco Manacorda

“As well as focusing on his studios, this catalogue also explores Mondrian’s broader relationship with architecture and urbanism, particularly through a comparison of his earlier Parisian works and those made in the frenetic modern cityscape of New York.”

Piet Mondrian: Life and Work (1956) by Michel Seuphor

Piet Mondrian: Life and Work (1956) by Michel Seuphor

“Michel Seuphor provides an excellent biography of Piet Mondrian that weaves his perspective as a devotee of the artist in with Mondrian’s own philosophy about art and life. There are full-colour reproductions as well as a comprehensive collection of black and white photos of almost all works by Mondrian.”

Mondrian Evolution, Sam Keller, Ulf Küster et al., Hatje Cantz, 300pp, £54 (pb)

Mondrian Evolution, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 5 June-9 October

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