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Chrysanthemum (1906-1907) features a green flower on a brown background and Mondrian carefully plans the composition to allow us to see different parts of the plant. Several leaves appear around the bottom of the painting, with the flower head dominating the top half.
Mondrian was adept at a number of different artistic genres, and was particularly varied in his content in the earlier parts of his career. This piece is expressive in many ways and the artist does in no way attempt to create a photo-realistic copy of what he saw at the time. Instead, he is adapting reality into his own world and would have altered the colour scheme from the original in order to adjust the painting to his own taste. There may have been an element of experimentation within this painting, as he attempted to further develop his skills within the still life genre. He was always aware of the need to improve his technical work, even if he did not intend on specialising within this particular genre. The same can be said about his landscapes and portraits too, where they fundamental skills could aid other work later in his career. He also wanted to challenge himself as much as he could and not settle on one artistic method too early on. Chrysanthemum (1906-1907) falls somewhere between painting and drawing, with a sketch like approach and reduced detail being combined with some of the colour opportunities brought about by using oils. One must remember that it was the Dutch, or at least in and around this part of Northern Europe, which brought about the use of oils in the first place.
The painting is 50cm tall and 35cm wide, approximately, and most of his flower depictions would be in this portrait shape. He would also create more complex work in which flowers would be placed in vases, and then positioned between other objects, such as fruit, but the piece in front of us here is clearly far more simple and relaxed. It could even have been intended as a gift, because of the speed at which it may have been completed. The item remained in the artist's ownership until his death, though, making it more likely to have been a simple study piece. It would later be sold on and changed hands several times between different American collectors. It is believed to have been located in Dallas since the 1990s, or so according to several publications on the artist, although it has also been put up for auction several times and so its present location may actually be elsewhere. It was also featured in the catalogue raisonne for Mondrian in the late 1990s, which goes a long way to confirming its attribution to him as entirely genuine.
The artist would have spent the most time on this piece incorporating detail around the flower head which was a complex challenge and something that he would have seen as quite a challenge. See the amount of detail in this arrangement, and quite possibly he draw it first being adding thin layers of paint over the top afterwards. The rest of the work is fairly simple, with a narrow stem and some strong looking leaves which decorate the bottom of the work. There is no real use of light to speak of, such as a shadow or other objects with which the flower might interact. Despite this, the piece would still hold a great value today where it ever to come up for auction today, such is the clamour to acquire anything from Mondrian's career by a good number of different American institutions. That demand seems unlikely to change in the future, given the accepted influence that he had on the direction of modern art across the 20th century.