Piet Mondrian worked in a variety of ways across his career, but it is his late abstract work which remains the most famous section. He took time to reach this level of abstraction, slowing transitioning over several decades from a more expressive approach. Eventually he would reduce everything down to mere shapes and lines, completely leaving reality behind in most examples. Colour would now become a critical element, with detail rejected to a certain degree. This approach was controversial and many immediately rejected it out of hand, particularly within the more traditionally-minded art circles. Some though had followed his career along the full journey and so did not find it quite as shocking, merely another chapter in his overall progression. They were more able to look at his new style subjectively, and try to understand what he was doing and why. They understood the technical ability that Mondrian had, but became intrigued as to why he would not turn his back on what he had done before. Many others followed a similar path within the first half of the 20th century, with Catalan painter, Miro, being another example.
This 1929 piece is given a descriptive title as with most of the artist's abstract paintings. Rather than anything imaginative, the names given would simply describe the colours used so that these formations of shape and line could be distinguished from each other. Therefore, this piece became known by most as Tableau (Yellow, Black, Blue, Red and Grey), with tableau being the word for painting in several European languages. Mondrian cuts up the canvas into different sections using black lines, with one major intersection down the middle of the composition. There are then horizontal lines of a similar thickness which then form regions in which the artist can add different tones of flat colour. He chooses blue, red, black and yellow in different parts of the top half of the artwork. This calm painting only allows small areas of colour, meaning the white background is dominant overall. In other examples, such as Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, he would change the balance by incorporating larger squares of bright colour into his grid system.
Visitors to the Lisbon gallery to see this piece will be able to marvel at a collection which serves related artists very well. For example, you will spot many drawings by El Lissitzky, who himself worked in a similar abstract manner to this period in Mondrian's career. There are also paintings by the likes of Lyubov Popova and Robert Delaunay who were also famous for abstract shapes and lines within their paintings. That said, the inclusion of Mondrian really lifts this venue to a new level, such is the fame achieved by this particular artist and also the fact that the piece that they own, Tableau (Yellow, Black, Blue, Red and Grey), comes directly from the most successful part of his extensive and varied career. Therefore fans of modern art should certainly find time for this gallery when in the city of Lisbon.