London’s Courtauld Gallery looks at Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson’s largely untold artistic connection during the 1930’s. They were both leading lights in European abstract painting at the time. Nicholson, a British artist, met Dutch painter Mondrian at his Paris studio on 1934. Mondrian was threatened by the Nazis; his work was included in Hitler’s (‘Degenerate Art’) exhibition of 1937. As a result, Nicholson invited Mondrian to live in London in 1938, and Mondrian accepted. They worked in neighbouring studios in Hampstead, amongst a community of international artists.
Nicholson and Mondrain shared a utopian and egalitarian vison of ideal art, design and society, something which we see mirrored in early “brutalist” architecture of the era. Mondrian felt Nicholson to be a kindred spirit in his quest to create pictorial harmony through balancing line and colour.
The exhibition focuses on the style that both artists are best known for – that is geometric abstraction, and all paintings on display have a historical significance; they were either shown together in exhibitions, or bought by the pair’s circle of friends, for example. The exhibition also shows letters and memorabilia revealing the parallel creative development of Mondrian and Nicholson.