New York City I 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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In a sign of the genius of Mondrian, the artist is somehow able to encapsulate the complex, vibrant city of New York within a painting that comprises of just a few simple lines. New York City I was created in 1942, right at the end of his career.

Mondrian loved to use grids for his later work, but few were as consistent and organised as this. The dominant colour here is yellow, certainly, and one immediately starts to think about long tail backs of taxis which in that cty would always be in this same tone of yellow. There are noticeably more yellow lines within this painting than any other colour, with red and blue used to provide an alternative option that could balance out the piece. It could also even be a road network, with the different colours representing the relative importance of each road. The blue lines are deliberately spaced out, as are the red ones too. The white background still shows through much of the piece and works to calm the busy content, with some of the detail to the right hand side being particularly intense. The artist does not attempt to lay out precise spacing here but it is important to him that structure is based around the vertical and horizontal, with nothing allowed in between. This is the key to his grid system, though some other works did include curves and diagonals, when he was feeling a little more experimental. Many of these abstract paintings lost all connection to reality but Mondrian did re-connect later in his career, with examples of cityscapes such as New York City I from 1942, plus also Trafalgar Square from 1939-1943 and Broadway Boogie Woogie in 1943.

New York City I is listed as being around 120cm in width and height which is around twice the size of the artist's earlier abstract paintings. It clearly seems that he was becoming more and more ambitious towards the end of his career, which is common amongst successful artists who start to consider their own legacy by this stage. Mondrian himself travelled to the city of New York in 1940 and found an exciting energy which only a relatively young nation could deliver. He immediately felt inspired to capture this unique atmosphere within his paintings and so set about producing a number of interpretations of the city within his exciting abstract approach. Contemporary art would become the first major artistic period in which the US would eventually lead and by the time Mondrian visited it would always be preparing to make this important transition.

This painting can be found in the Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France. It is part of their permanent collection and will typically be out on display, but please check ahead of visiting to make sure. Mondrian remains one of the biggest names within their highly impressive collection and the gallery actually own quite a number of artworks from his career, with both paintings and study drawings to be found here. There are some items which tell more about his working practices, with notes hand written alongside sketches, as well as photographs from others of the man himself. Composition D from 1932 as well as Composition with Red, Blue and White II from 1937 are two of the other important paintings to be found here. The Pompidou focuses most on contemporary art, with major US and European artists from the 20th century on display here, allowing it to provide a great alternative to some of the more traditional art museums and galleries found elsewhere in the culturally-rich French capital.

New York City I in Detail Piet Mondrian