Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) <I>Roses de No&#235;l</I> 10 x 7 3/8 in (25.4 x 18.7 cm) (Painted in 1923)

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Lot 36
Piet Mondrian
(1872-1944)
Roses de Noël
Painted in 1923

Sold for US$ 89,950 inc. premium
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Roses de Noël
signed 'Piet Mondrian' (lower left)
oil on paper laid down on panel
10 x 7 3/8 in (25.4 x 18.7 cm)
Painted in 1923

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Wietse Coppes, curator Mondrian & De Stijl-archives and documentation, RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History and it will be included in the upcoming digital Piet Mondrian – Catalogue Raisonné.

    Provenance
    Joop Siedenburg, Amsterdam (acquired from the artist in 1923).
    Hein Siedenburg, Amsterdam (by descent from the above).
    E.J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam, no. S 8147 (acquired from the above in 1960).
    David B. Findlay Gallery, New York.
    Mrs. Calvert C. Tucker, Texas (acquired from the above in July 1961).
    Thence by descent to the present owner.

    Roses de Noël is an exemplary work from Piet Mondrian's early artistic years. A pioneer of twentieth century abstract art, Mondrian rooted his subject matter in nature in attempt to find universal beauty through utopian values. The flower was one of Mondrian's most admired subject matters and one he returned to over his lifetime. Roses de Noël represents the beginning of the artist's exploration with avant-garde techniques, incorporating elements from several influential movements. Mondrian later reflected on the subject, writing "I enjoyed painting flowers, not bouquets, but a single flower at a time, in order that I might better express its plastic structure" (quoted in A. Sievers, 'Piet Mondrian,' in Master Drawings from the Smith College Museum of Art (exhibition catalogue), Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, 2001, p. 236). The present work embodies the artist's escape from representational painting and towards an expression of underlying truth.

    Mondrian began his artistic training like most artists - attempting to capture the natural world in its most accurate and precise form. Trained in the classical technique, Mondrian graduated from Amsterdam's Royal Academy of Visual Arts in 1897. Although his work was representational and naturalistic in style, the artist was particularly captivated by the work of Paul Cézanne and the Post-Impressionists. Cézanne, who would paint Mont Sainte-Victoire numerous times between 1902-1906, returned to the same landscape as a means to explore various artistic techniques. Similarly, Mondrian would create more than a hundred pictures of flowers until the mid 1920s, captivated by the idea of reducing nature into its individual facets of color.

    In the present work, the loose brushstrokes, muted color palette, and emphasis on a balanced pictorial picture plane, pretenses the stylistic techniques emphasized in the De stijl movement. A founding member of the avant-garde group, Mondrian prioritized abstract form rather than representation. As such, he focused on reducing the essentials of form and color limiting his color palette to the three primary colors (red, blue and yellow), the three primary values (black, white and gray), and two primary directions (horizontal and vertical). Although a naturalistic depiction of white Christmas roses, the painting represents the transition of Mondrian's style from a naturalistic and representational image to pure abstraction.

    Akin to his other early works, Roses de Noël is characterized by a strong central motif, around which the rest of the picture revolves in a symmetrical fashion. The stem of the flower is centrally placed, creating a strong vertical axis that is further reinforced by the central flower's openness and frontality to the viewer. This strong composition is then counteracted with the delicate pale-yellow stem that suspends in space amidst the soft brushstrokes of various tonalities of gray. This vertical line carries the eye to the lower part of the composition and the three blooms that anchor the bouquet. The compositional elements in the present work are defined by the contrasting directional forces of horizontal and vertical, the simplified color palette, and the loose brushstrokes that emphasize form over content. These stylistic tendencies demonstrate Mondrian's attempt to break away from representational painting through balance and order. In 1941, Mondrian reflected on his transition towards abstraction: "I recognized that the equilibrium of any particular aspect of nature rests on the equivalence of its opposites... Art has to determine space as well as form and to create the equivalence of these two factors" (ibid.).

    Distinguished by its early provenance, Roses de Noël was acquired directly from the artist in 1923 by J.H.H. ('Joop') Siedenburg. A longtime friend of Mondrian, Siedenburg was the director and owner of the Frans Buffa & Zonen gallery in Amsterdam. The painting then entered the collection of Mr. Siedenburg's son, Hein Seidenburg, where it remained in Amsterdam until 1960. Shortly after the painting's arrival in America, Roses de Noël entered the collection of Mrs. Calvert C. Tucker, Texas, where it has remained ever since.
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