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This self portrait by Piet Mondrian came about in 1918, by which time the artist would have been middle aged. Most of his portraiture appeared early in his career, with the latter part being filled with his signature style of abstract shapes and bright colour.
Piet was in his mid-forties by the time that he painted this work and it is interesting to compare the piece with his Self Portrait (1900) from around two decades earlier. This artwork is listed as being 88cm in height and 71cm in width, which was roughly the standard size used by Mondrian across most of his career, whatever the genre of the work. The self portrait was snapped up by the Kunstmuseum in The Haguc, Netherlands in the early 1970s and previously was part of a private collection of a Dutch gentleman by the name of Sal Slijper. Many of Mondrian's lesser known paintings would end up in smaller collections initially before later being acquired by larger institutions once the artist's reputation started to soar. Thankfully, many of his paintings remain within his native Netherlands, partly due to the large amount of work that he produced across his career which has made it more possible for different local and international galleries to obtain some of his work. The inclusion of a self portrait is particularly interesting because of how it allows us to visually understand more about the man himself.
The artist is smartly dressed for this painting, with a brown suit and white shirt. He stands side on in a classical portrait posture, with his head angled towards us. His expression is serious, perhaps underlining someone who was now rising the ranks of the art world and had to give out an aura of professionalism. His hair is also smartly done, slick back as was the style of the time. He is also noticeably clean-shaven, having sported a thick beard earlier in his life which itself had made its way into other self portraits that he produced. Behind him is a simple background which avoids distracting our eyes, whilst giving enough that we can understand fully the location for this painting. He is indoors close to a wall with wooden panels on the lower half. The artist adds some small squares across the upper half, as if a wallpaper effect. Again the detail overall is loose and he is delivering an approximation of reality rather than a precise reproduction.
Mondrian will never be remembered first and foremost as a portrait painter but he did carry across his contemporary leanings into this genre from time to time. We can learn more about his friends and family through some of the portraiture that he did complete, and also the self portraits are entirely invaluable in understanding more about the man himself. A catalogue raisonne in 1998 went a long way to helping us learn more about the full breadth of his career and many have since discovered how varied his career was when previously they had merely considered him a successful abstract painter, perhaps unaware of his stunning landscapes across the Netherlands and also the odd portrait here and there, as found in front of us here.