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06-12-2019

New letters enrich the Mondrian Edit Project

The RKD –  the Art History Institute, has acquired eighteen unknown letters and postcards by Piet Mondrian at a Paris auction. The letters concerned are letters to the remonstrant preacher and collector Hendrik van Assendelft and letters to an American artist couple. The letters to Van Assendelft contain new information about Mondrian’s stay in the Netherlands during the First World War, when his work went through the crucial development from naturalistic to abstract. The letters show that Van Assendelft was an important factor in helping construct Mondrian’s thoughts at the time. The letters will be part of The Mondrian Papers, the digital edition of all letters and articles by Piet Mondrian.

Mondrian and Van Assendelft

Mondrian met Van Assendelft in 1914 when the outbreak of the First World War prevented him from returning to his studio in Paris during a visit to the Netherlands. From that moment on, Van Assendelft became his supporter by buying Mondrian’s work and providing him accommodation at his home in Gouda. The letters depict the development of a friendship and contain as yet unknown information about Van Assendelft’s role as editor of the articles Mondrian published in the magazine De Stijl from 1917 onwards. The artist and the preacher shared an interest in the spiritual in art, which was also expressed in Van Assendelt’s purchases of work by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. The Mondrian’s from the former Van Assendelft collection are now in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, among other places.

Mondrian and the Lux artist couple

At the same auction in Paris, the RKD acquired letters from Mondrian to the American artist couple Eugene and Gwendolyn Lux. This graphic designer and sculptor were part of the American-European network of avant-garde artists in the years preceding the Second World War. Eugene Lux played a role in the introduction and acceptance of Mondrian’s work in the United States. This facilitated Mondrian’s emigration to New York in 1940, keeping him out of the hands of the Nazis.

Mondrian Edit Project

The recently acquired letters from Piet Mondrian to Van Assendelft and the Lux couple, as well as the photographs of (partly lost) paintings sent to Van Assendelft, will be published on www.mondrianpapers.org in due time. This scholarly, online edition makes the complete correspondence and theoretical writings of Piet Mondriaan accessible to a broad public. The Mondrian Papers is a collaboration between the Huygens Institute for Dutch History (KNAW) and the RKD, with the cooperation of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. More information can be found at: www.mondrianpapers.org.

Letters from Assendelft in the Gemeentemuseum The Hague

A selection of Mondrian’s letters to Van Assendelft will be exhibited from 26 September on in a showcase in the Gemeentemuseum The Hague. In this exhibition, a number of letters to the Lux couple will be on display in a showcase in the RKD as well.

The acquisition of the RKD was made possible by a financial contribution from the Mondriaan Fonds, Stichting Cornelis Hofstede de Groot/Vrienden van het RKD, Stichting Virtutis Opus and the Fondation Custodia; and thanks to art dealer Bob Haboldt & Co.

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