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There were a number of self portraits within Piet Mondrian's career and these help us to learn more about how he saw himself over the passage of time. This particular artwork was completed in 1900, therefore capturing Piet whilst still a relatively young man.
This shoulder-length portrait used oil mounted on a masonite board. The painting is now in The Phillips Collection, Washington (D.C.), USA. The artist looks directly at us whilst wearing a shirt and waistcoat. He sports a prominent beard which has been smartly trimmed, perhaps for this very portrait. We really get to see the young artist here and at the time of this self portrait in 1900 he would have been around his late twenties and just starting to establish himself as a professional artist. He produced a good number of portraits and self portraits before the turn of the century, also taking in members of his family, friends, plus also some of his patrons. The portrait was included in a 1998 catalogue raisonne, confirming its authenticity, and its size is listed as being 55cm by 39cm. Their date differs slightly, in that a range of 1899-1901 is offered up instead, but the general concensus remains much the same.
Some of the brushwork with this painting is fairly loose and we can already see here the makings of a contemporary artist, even though his movement into abstract art later on would be just so different to what we find here. This may therefore have been an exploratory piece, similar to a study painting, where an artist is experimenting and does not worry about completing every last detail. Mondrian would have come across the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists who had already moved things on from the traditional styles of the past, and so this manner of painting at that point would not shock anyone anymore. It would then be his switch across to France which brought about the next phase in his development which came around a decade after this self portrait was completed. He would go on to produce another notable piece after that, namely Self Portrait (1918) which allows us to visually compare his appearance.
The artist would often focus on those around him in his early years, partly because there would be no money available to hire models and also he was not ready to focus entirely on landscapes at that point. Mondrian was aware that he should develop his skills across different genres from an early age in order to be taken seriously, but also so that he could find ways of working that he enjoyed the most. Some of his portraits would be rejected by academics as unsatisfactory but he continued to refine his work nonetheless and still produced many items worthy of note within that genre. Thay have since become dispersed across a variety of public and private collections.