Mondrian and Theosophy

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) received a strict religious education from his father, a traditional and militant Calvinist. On May 25, 1909, Mondrian abandons the Protestant church and joins the Dutch Theosophical Society. The Theosophical Society was one of the spiritual movements that arose in Western society at the end of the 19th century. It was founded in 1875 by a Russian fortuneteller named Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In broad lines, the theosophical doctrine is an amalgam of different philosophical currents and different religions: it aims to reconciliate East and West. Theosophy tries to act as a bridge between the existing divide between the Western church and scientific progress by integrating science into a conglomerate formed by religion, philosophy and art, all with the same goal: explain the diversity and multiplicity of the universe that theosophists resolve through evolution. The Theosophical Society was founded in the United States but quickly spread throughout Europe. Theosophy had an immediate influence on art, particularly in the Netherlands. Forty Dutch artists participated in the exposition organized in 1904 in Amsterdam, for the Theosophical Society’s International Convention, which gives a good idea of how well the theosophical doctrine was received in Dutch artistic circles. There is a series of data that allow us to trace Mondrian’s relationship with Theosophy: Piet Mondrian was a member of the Theosophical Society till his death; when the painter moved to Paris –at the end of 1911–, he initially stayed at the French Theosophical Society’s headquarters; when in September 1938, due to the imminent outbreak of the Second World War, Mondrian abandoned Paris to move to London, the Dutch painter took the time to change his membership from the French Theosophical Society to the English one; when he died in New York, in 1944, one of the few documents he had with him was his Theosophical Society membership card; and, lastly, the few books he kept with him until his death are practically all theosophists –Blavatsky, Steiner, Schoenmaekers. The figures listed do not demonstrate, however, the possible influence of Theosophy had on Mondrian’s painting or his theoretical writing in his neoplastic period. The relationship between Theosophy and Mondrian’s work can be summarized in the following way: on the one hand, there is no proof, or signs, that might allow us to venture any type of intention or goal related to Theosophy in Mondrian’s painting before his symbolist period; on the other, the influence Theosophy had on Mondrian’s painting during his symbolist period – from 1908 to 1911 – has been convincingly demonstrated by Welsh (1971). Lastly, there is no consensus on how much influence Arte, Individuo y Sociedad 2014, 26(3), 489-504 491 Pablo Bris-Marino The influence of Theosophy on Mondrian’s neoplastic work Theosophy had on Mo …

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