Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Missing Mondrian Archive

The Art Science Research Laboratory (ASRL) carries the news of the recently rescued Piet Mondrian Archive: “A Lost Collection emerges for Scholars.”

Known as “the father of geometric abstraction,” Piet Mondrian (1877-1944) was a pivotal figure in the revolution of Modern Art that began with Cubism in the early 20th century. In 1940, the great artist fled the war in Europe to New York City. At his death in 1944, all that was found in his apartment was a cache of personal papers. He had pared down his few possessions to some postcards, cablegrams, address-book pages, a notebook, an important unpublished essay, and his horoscope readings, all of which provide an intimate glimpse of a significant artist. The correspondence details his fears and anxieties elicited by the war. Personal photographs include old-style cabinet cards depicting his parents, candid shots of his early studio in Holland, and a wallet-size photo of Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy. These items were held, unseen and unpublished, by Mondrian's estate until a buyer for them could be found.    

Thanks to the Director of the ASRL, it was arranged to purchase the collection and secure the copyrights to display the documents online, free of charge, and the staff of ASRL will be working with Stanford University Library to scan and digitize online the entire Mondrian collection. The digitalized Mondrian Archive will be available on the Internet and in a CD format for the use of scholars and students.

Mondrian’s membership card in the Theosophical Society is in the archives at Yale University, and the wallet size photo of Mme. Blavatsky found among his papers “suggests that Theosophy was more than a passing fancy but continued to the end of his life.” The photograph of Blavatsky that Mondrian kept among his few possessions can be viewed here.

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