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Friday, May 30 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Paintings Session) Piet Mondrian: Technical Studies and Treatment

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Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was born in Holland in 1872 and trained at the Rijksacademie. His work of the 1890s was influenced by the contemporary styles of the day: the Hague school, the Amsterdam Impressionists, and Symbolism. Shortly after a 1905 van Gogh exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Mondrian’s work transitioned to Neo-Impressionism or “Luminism”, where he explored color and contour. By 1909 he would have his first retrospective at the Stedelijk where he was regarded as a leader of the avant-garde. Studying the style of the day he embraced the transition from Luminism to Cubism and moved to Paris in 1912. He immersed himself in the café and salon scene with fellow artists such as Léger, Rivera, and Braque. He would travel back and forth from Holland to Paris, until the outbreak of World War I would force him to stay in the Netherlands. From 1917 to 1920 he painted experimental works and wrote for van Doesburg’s De Stijl , where in an autobiographical account of his own painting career he expressed, “Only the primary colors—red, blue and yellow—filled in with white and black were required in order to express universal light.” Returning to Paris in 1919, he wrote Le Néo-plasticisme in 1920. He continued to write and to paint throughout the 1920s and 30s and was exhibited throughout Paris, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. As the second World War approached he moved to London in 1938 and finally New York in 1940 where he died in 1944 at the very height of his career.

With twenty five of his works, spanning from 1902 to 1944, the Museum of Modern Art holds the most comprehensive collection of paintings by Mondrian in North America. For the last 4 years the conservation department has continued to utilize ever developing technology to study Mondrian’s sixteen oil paintings through examination, documentation, technical analysis, re-treatment, and inter-museum collaboration with colleagues such as conservators and curators at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Technical examination including imaging, X-radiography, Reflectance Transformation Imaging, and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy with multivariate analysis have been carried out on the majority of the collection. This research is presenting stratigraphic elemental palette information, transitions in his type of paints and medium, a plethora of compositional changes, as well as evolutions in his paint layering technique.

Many of Mondrian’s post 1917 works have exhibited cracking and paint lifting due to intra- and interlayer cleavage of ground and paint. In the past these instabilities warranted lining treatments. The information gleaned through this technical evaluation is expected to produce data that may correlate current and past condition issues with the artist’s material choices and application techniques. Ultimately the collective documentation will be migrated to a Mondrian database to provide the MoMA as well as other institutions and art historians with a more comprehensive understanding of this critically important body of Piet Mondrian’s work.

avatar for Cynthia M. Albertson

Cynthia M. Albertson

Conservator, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Cindy Albertson is conservator the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Previously, she was at the at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a conservator in private practice at Albertson & Nunan, Inc. She presently serves as project manager for Alliance for Response New York City, a local volunteer... Read More →

avatar for Ana Martins

Ana Martins

Conservation Scientist, MoMA
Ana Martins is a Conservation Scientist working in the MoMA Conservation Department since 2008. She has a degree and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Oporto in Portugal where she taught Analytical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis as a Professor of the Faculty of Science... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 10:30am - 11:00am PDT
Grand Ballroom B