Gladiolus Piet Mondrian Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Gladiolus, ca. 1936, is one of Piet Mondrian's last flower paintings. It an important piece which represents his continued experimentation and exploration which lasted right up until the end of his life. The item has travelled more between different private collections than perhaps any other artwork that he produced.

This painting has been put up for auction at least four times since the 1980s, exchanging hands regularly. Sotheby's themselves have researched the piece in detail in order to give their customers the most amount of information possible and they have more loosely dated the piece at around 1935-1937, with the middle year being the most likely. This area of indecision is common with paintings such as this because they are not amongst the artist's most well known pieces and so were not documented in great detail until some years after they were initially finished. An interesting element to the piece is how the artist signs it in the bottom right corner, using his full name rather than his initials. He also wrote "London period" underneath, which would immediately help others to date the piece when placed within the context of the living arrangements across his lifetime. Mondrian spent many years in his native Netherlands before relocating to Paris in order to draw in new artistic influences. After that he would spend time in other countries, and this partly explains why his artworks have become so widely dispersed.

The painting itself, Gladiolus ca. 1936, features an expressive and reduced detail depiction of this popular flower. The brushwork is entirely loose and relaxed, suggesting that the artist worked at great speed in order to produce this artwork, and perhaps did so purely for enjoyment rather than with the intention of selling the piece to one of his many patrons. The head of the flower dominates our attention, and is spread across much of the top half of the piece. The stem then leads down to the bottom left corner of the artwork and delivers a delightful tone of green which contrasts with the white and yellow used on the petals of the flower head itself. Behind we find tones of grey and black which suggest at parts of a room, perhaps a window sill, but do not give enough detail to really be sure. The bottom right corner is entirely devoid of paint, suggesting this to be a quick study in which the artist is not intending to present the piece to anyone else. We find large dabs of paint which have not been fused together smoothly as the artist just concentrates on delivering a basic layout, perhaps with the intention of creating a more complete follow up version later on.

The artist also produced Gladioli in a Bottle, and so featured this particular flower seceral times, although he would vary their colour depending on his personal taste at the time. He would go on to produce many other examples of botany within his career, though most came about much earlier in his lifetime. Towards the end of his career these examples would have been more about fun and just enjoying the skills that he had developed over the previous decades, rather than trying to really make any sort of statement. Many artists are at their most free towards the end, once financial security is assured and a reputation is so strong that they can truly work independently without any concern over being able to impress and make sufficient numbers of sales.