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Gallery Text

Mondrian’s adherence to the aesthetic theories of neoplasticism, a utopian approach that ascribes the power of spiritual progress and social change to geometric abstract painting, restricted him to the most basic artistic elements — horizontal and vertical lines — and to primary colors along with white, black, and gray. From these limited means, the Dutch artist and principal member of the de Stijl movement created works that carefully balanced each line and field of color to achieve a harmonious composition. In this painting brushed fields of soft gray and primary color contrast with the glossy varnished black lines. The fact that none of the lines extends completely across the picture lends the composition a sense of harnessed dynamism. Although Mondrian was never officially affiliated with the Bauhaus, he was an important part of its broader network. In 1925 his influential theories on design became the subject of the fifth volume in the school’s Bauhaus Books series.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Piet Mondrian, Dutch (Amersfoort, The Netherlands 1872 - 1944 New York, N.Y.)
Composition with Blue, Black, Yellow, and Red
Work Type
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1520, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
39 x 34.7 cm (15 3/8 x 13 11/16 in.)
framed: 41 x 37 x 1.5 cm (16 1/8 x 14 9/16 x 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: on recto at l.r.: PM. '22
Artist, sold to Martijn Sanders(through Paul Sanders), the Netherlands, 1925, by descent; to the Sanders family, United States, partial gift/partial sale; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 2000.

Footnotes: See NYTimes article of 7 Jan 2000.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Anonymous Gift in honor of Martin and Paul F. Sanders; Purchase through the generosity of Emily Rauh Pulitzer and the Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum; Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund; Esperia Foundation Fund, in memory of Donald Outerbridge; Louise Haskell Daly Fund; and Richard Norton Memorial Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 109, ill. (color)

Harry Cooper and Ron Spronk, Mondrian: The Transatlantic Paintings, exh. cat., Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2001), p. 11, fig. 2

Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 133

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 200, ill.

Exhibition History

A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions from the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Central and Northern Art and Design from 1880 to the Present, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 04/19/2000 - 07/09/2000

Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011

Re-View: European and American Art Since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/03/2011 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1520 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Interwar and Bauhaus), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 12/10/2018; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/05/2019 - 01/01/2050

Related Works

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