Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray is a diagonally-shaped artwork by Piet Mondrian which was completed in 1921. It now resides within the permanent collection of the Chieco Art Institute in the US.
This interest variant features clear black lines which create various shapes between them. Some of these are then filled with colour, with Mondrian choosing tones of yellow, blue, black and red. The diagonal nature of this canvas gives the impression of looking through a window towards another of his abstract works, with parts feeling cropped out from his normal formats. Mondrian would frame the canvas with white wooden stakes and then actually mount the whole piece on a large white background, helping to keep the piece safe and protected. In this lozenge format, he might also have been concerned about curators not hanging it at the correct angle, meaning it was easier just to deliver it on a square frame that sat neutrally in the background. The artist was fairly playful with this composition, allowing just the smallest amount of red to appear at the very bottom of the work. You will find these tones featuring many times within his abstract paintings, with the artist rotating between different combinations from one artwork to the next.
The artwork is around 60cm in height and width, which is typical of Mondrian's abstract paintings which were all around this size. The item is believed to have been gifted by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr directly to the Art Institute of Chicago. It is signed in the normal way of this artist, with initial and a date in the corner of the piece and this piece has been known about within his oeuvre ever since it was first completed. Mondrian is known to have fallen out with members of the De Stijl movement about their proposed use of diagonals within art, which he rejected. But move forward several years and now he is even producing work on diagonally-angled canvases whilst working by himself. It may have been more about control within that collective that anything else, and shaping the group himself, though he would soon leave and go it alone from that point onwards. By the 1920s the artist had completed his transition into abstraction and any connection to reality was now virtually gone.
Whilst the use of lines, shapes and colours within this painting seem almost randomly applied, the artist would actually plan this very carefully. Everything was added with thought, and with the purpose of balancing with each other. The colours would have to work in combination, as would their placement. There was also the added complexity within this painting of the diagonal canvas, rotated ninety degrees in order to provide a further challenge and exploration for the artist. It immediately forced the content to fight against the edges of the painting, though Mondrian was able to make it work effectively. He often planned on paper his ideas first, using pencil or charcoal, prior to commencing the painting itself. It is this sort of innovation which would influence many future artists who arrived later in the 20th century across Europe and in the US too.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.