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Yellow Chrysanthemums in a Ginger Pot is one of Pet Mondrian’s rare flower paintings. For a period of several years he focused intensely on his still life techniques, with this painting being one example of that.
The artist selected several different flowers for his work and colour would normally be the most important consideration. His later abstract paintings were heavy in white, red and yellow and he would choose flowers of similar tones in this earlier part of his career. In this case we find a bright yellow which works beautifully against the background which sits behind. The composition is also carefully angled so that the brightest light warms the petals of this charming flower. Still life art seems fairly simple but there were actually several painting fundamentals that had to be mastered in order to do it effectively and so it would often be used within art schools as a means to teaching students about the use of light at different angles and also capturing different materials accurately. Mondrian would himself have undergone a similar route as a young student, with drawing also an important element of development which he would have spent several years focusing on.
The painting is dated at 1898, though some experts prefer a slightly wide range of circa 1897-1899. It is sized at 42cm in height and 34.5cm in width. It was produced using oils on canvas, just as with all of the artist's still life paintings during this period. It has changed hands several times between different private collectors, though has now moved across to the US, having originally been based in the Netherlands. Whilst in the US today, it remained in the Netherlands long enough for local historians to collate it amongst Mondrian's overall career, leading to its inclusion within a comprehensive catalogue raisonne which was an important addition to us all better understanding the full breadth of this artist's career. There are not many of Mondrian's paintings to have made it over to the US, making this an interesting presence over there.
Mondrian would have studied the key artists from the 19th century and along the way must have come across the work of Paul Cezanne who himself was particularly skilled in still life art. He also regularly used flowers within his work and his style helped to breathe new life into this traditional genre. He would become known by some as the first modern artist, although it was more of a transition from the achievements of the impressionists towards something more akin to the Cubists who followed on some years later. Mondrian would not ultimately stick with still life art for more than just a few paintings but this does not detract from the quality of these individual artworks and they also will appeal to some who might not actually be so interested in his more famous series of abstract shapes and lines which remain the most significant part of his oeuvre.