Mondrian Figuratif exhibition

Leo Jansen and Wietse Coppes wrote an extensive article in English about Mondrian and his friend Sal Slijper, which was published in the exhibition catalogue of the Mondrian Figuratif exhibition at Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.

Leo Jansen and Wietse Coppes (curator at the Netherlands Institute for Art History RKD) wrote an article (in English) for the exhibition catalogue of Mondrian Figuratif (The Figurative Mondrian). This extensive article deals with the relationship between Mondrian and his friend Sal Slijper, who acquired a large collection of works by Mondrian and left them to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. The article is founded on the correspondence between Slijper and Mondrian. In their essay, Jansen and Coppes demonstrate that the image presented by Slijper of a warm and close friendship may have been a well-intended tribute to his friend, but that it was primarily based on an idealisation.

Some excerpts

Slijper wrote: “I had a little difficulty getting used to the first painting by Mondrian that I saw . . . for it was the first abstract painting I had ever seen . . . or had ever even heard of. After six weeks I noticed that the painting had had an effect on me, for I looked with less and less pleasure at ‘ordinary’ paintings, which I had enjoyed up to that point. It took years for me to realize what it was that attracted me. It must have been Mondrian’s unyielding effort to fathom the very depths of existence.”

Slijper said it took some persuading before he was allowed to buy his first painting from Mondrian. The artist was not looking for “charity” and he wanted to be sure that Slijper actually cared about the work itself. The first piece he bought was a naturalistic work depicting a windmill or a farmhouse — this is not clear — and he seems to have liked it, as he soon bought more. Slijper was later accused of acquiring work by Mondrian for very little money. He dismissed this as a lack of commercial spirit on the part of the artist: “He was no merchant, he always asked much too little. I acquired that first painting for a trifle.” At any rate, the many works he sold to Slijper did Mondrian a great service at a time when he barely earned enough to keep his head above water.

It was a relief to Mondrian to have found a buyer for large numbers of works from an earlier phase of his artistic development. For although the older works were “inwardly the same,” Mondrian valued his recent work more highly, in which he felt the “outward” and “inward” were in better balance. He hoped to interest renowned collectors — which at this point certainly did not include Slijper — in his new work.

Mondrian Figuratif

The exhibition, which is on display at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, is dedicated to Piet Mondrian’s figurative work. This is a remarkable exhibition in view of the fact that Mondrian became famous for his abstract art and his membership of Dutch art movement ‘De Stijl’. The Mondrian Figuratif exhibition at Musée Marmottan Monet will run until 26 January 2020.