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Composition with Red Blue Yellow

Artist: Piet Mondrian
Created: 1921
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Municipal Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands



Composition with Red Blue Yellow

Piet Mondrian innovated and named the style of Neo-Plasticism, as in The New Shape or The New Form. The style was also known as De Stijl, after the journal of the same name (the style in Dutch), to which Mondrian contributed regularly. It is a style that is fundamentally formulaic, limiting individual variation, but as with any formula, there was room for considerable originality. It is also a style that demands much of the viewer. Neo-Plastic paintings are completely and utterly abstract, representing no concrete or preconceived form.

The elements of Neo-Plasticism are relatively simple: squares and rectangles of primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and/or non-colors (black, white, gray) are situated within a matrix of dividing lines of varying widths. It avoids all references to subject matter of any kind, instead striving for a universality of expression (there is little room for subjective interpretation) through dynamic balance of lines, forms, and colors—a tentative equilibrium. In this sense, it is essentially rational: a straightforward aesthetic presentation, not grounded in allegory, symbolism, or abstraction. Mondrian's theory of the style was that modern sensibilities can identify closely with art that looks as though it is the product of a machine or an industrial process.

Composition With Red Blue Yellow stands as a fine example of Mondrian's pioneering of the Neo-Plastic style. Its extremely rudimentary nature paradoxically holds considerable appeal. The dynamic interaction of the small swaths of blue and yellow next to the crushing, dominating, brilliant red square is both eye-catching and compelling. It exhibits the perfect tentative equilibrium that is an integral part of Neo-Plasticism: it is impossible to tell if the dominant red square is about to completely eclipse the other colors or if it is on the wane.



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