The Optimism of Mondrian is What We Need Right Now

Why Art is the Antidote for Covid-19

Piet Mondrian, Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930

It’s amazing to look at something so simple and tidy as a Mondrian painting and realize that inside its unassuming blocks of color lies a profound sense of hope for the future.

Around 1914, Mondrian returned to his native Holland to visit his sick father when the First World War broke out. Unable to leave, Mondrian instead began the slow and steady work of abstracting his already Cubist style. Influenced by Picasso, Kandinsky and other artists from the time he’d spent in Paris, Mondrian began to embrace even more extreme ideas, eventually distilling his art down to its most basic forms — simple shapes, horizontals and verticals, primary colors.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Mondrian wrote extensively about his belief in harmony and how finding balance is the best response to chaos. This from a person whose life was uprooted and devastated by war. It’s profoundly optimistic — the idea that hope, beauty and grace can somehow combat trauma, stress and disorder.

By balancing opposites without the ease of symmetry, Mondrian was speaking to the universal truth that opposite forces are ever present in our lives, but never in equal amounts.

Whether in our world or within ourselves, the natural forces of positive and negative, order and chaos, dynamic and static are ever present and never in the equal amounts that would allow one to neutralize the other. We sometimes get comfortable during long periods of great fortune or joy and then just when it seems life can’t get better we can find ourselves struck by profound and unbearable loss. Yet, sometimes the smallest shimmer of light can topple what seems an insurmountable challenge, much the same way the giant, overwhelming red square in Mondrian’s Compostion II in Red, Yellow and Blue(pictured)is so beautifully balanced with just a tiny square of yellow.

The never-ending hope of a Mondrian painting can’t be denied.

The stability of the horizontals and verticals (Mondrian despised chaotic diagonals), the brightness of the colors and the solidity of the shapes reminds me how the best kind of art speaks to universal truths and Mondrian’s art uses the simple language of shape and color to deftly communicate complex realities. Young kids always love Mondrian because he speaks the language of shape and color which transcends culture or cognitive barrier.

He’s the Marie Kondo of the Art World.

Long before Marie Kondo came along with her ideas of how tidiness sparks joy, Mondrian used simplicity in hopes that the viewer would feel a deep sense of peace. Studies show that viewing art in any form reduces the stress hormone cortisol. So next time you need a ray of happiness in your life, instead of purging your cupboards or KonMari folding your clothes, open up your heart and let the art of Mondrian shine in.


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