Portrait of Ludwig Wilhelm Schöffer Piet Mondrian Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

This is a portrait by Piet Mondrian which dates from the very early 20th century. Prior to becoming a major figure within the abstract art world, this artist actually impressed in a number of other genres including landscape art and portraiture, as seen here.

The Dutchman would regularly take on commissions for local figures in order to strengthen his customer base but also to bring in extra income. At this time photography was very much in its infancy and so in order to be remembered by future generations those able to afford it would request their portraits to be painted. In some cases the subjects would actually already have passed away and members of their family would arrange portraits to allow them to better remember their family members. In the case of this portrait of Ludwig Wilhelm Schoffer, it is believed that he had actually passed away just a year earlier than this painting's inception, meaning the project would have been arranged by his children who wanted to remember him for years to come. He lived from 1831-1904, with the painting loosely dated at 1905, though some have suggested that it may have actually been completed a year earlier or later - it is unlikely that we will ever now the true date now.

For this portrait the subject stands with a confident but serious expression on his face. He is presented in a dark grey suit with light touches of white from his top pocket and also the collar of his shirt. These items take your attention because of how most of the artwork is particularly dark in tone. The background is a brown tone which Mondrian used in many other portrait paintings and he felt it worked well against his subjects who were normally dressed in black or dark grey outfits. His moustache is extravagant, groomed to perfection as it reaches out to the two sides of his face. His face is plump, underlining his mature age, and he appears to be fairly portly in build but at the same time looks successful and content. He looks off just to our left hand side and the portrait can certainly be described as complementary to the subject who appears strong in mind and one assumes successful within his own lifetime.

Something of note to this painting is that a near identical photograph has since been uncovered. Mondrian would certainly have used this for the preparation of the painting and it is rare for us to have discovered the original photograph from which he produced this delightful portrait. That photograph is owned by the Rotterdam Museum and the connection was made some years ago. The original painting itself is believed to have been snapped up by a private collector and today resides within a private collection, probably somewhere within the Netherlands. The item also came up for sale at Christie's in Amsterdam in 1994, just a few years before it was included in the artist's catalogue raisonne.