Mondrian’s youth

The earliest paintings that show an inkling of the abstraction to come are a series of canvases from 1905 to 1908, which depict dim scenes of indistinct trees and houses with reflections in still water. Although the end result leads the viewer to begin emphasizing the forms over the content, these paintings are still firmly rooted in nature, and it is only the knowledge of Mondrian’s later achievements that leads one to search for the roots of his future abstraction in these works.

Mondrian’s art always was intimately related to his spiritual and philosophical studies. In 1908 he became interested in the theosophical movement launched by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the late 19th century, and he joined the Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society in 1909. The work of Blavatsky and a parallel spiritual movement, Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy, significantly affected the further development of his aesthetic. Blavatsky believed that it was possible to attain a more profound knowledge of nature than that provided by empirical means, and much of Mondrian’s work for the rest of his life was inspired by his search for that spiritual knowledge.

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