Piet Mondrian Archive

 Archief Piet Mondriaan

The RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History purchased eighteen unknown letters and postcards by Piet Mondrian at an auction in Paris. The letters were to the Remonstrant cleric and collector Hendrik van Assendelft, and to an American couple who were fellow artists. The letters to Van Assendelft contain new information on Mondrian's stay in the Netherlands during the First World War, when his work underwent the crucial development from naturalistic to abstract. The letters show that Van Assendelft was an important sounding board for Mondrian. The letters will be entered into The Mondrian Papers, the digital edition of all letters and articles by Piet Mondrian. 

Mondrian and Van Assendelft

Mondrian met Van Assendelft in 1914 when a planned visit to the Netherlands turned into a longer than intended stay after the First World War broke out, leaving him unable to return to his studio in Paris. From that moment on, Van Assendelft was of great support to Mondrian by buying some of his work and offering him a place to stay at his home in Gouda. The letters offer a glimpse into their budding friendship and contain until now unknown information on Van Assendelft's role as an editor of the articles Mondrian published after 1917 in the magazine De Stijl. The artist and the priest shared an interest in the spiritual side of art, which Van Assendelft also expressed through his purchases of works by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. The Mondrian works from the collection previously belonging to Van Assendelft are now housed in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Mondrian and the Lux couple

At the same auction, the RKD also purchased letters by Mondrian to the American husband and wife artists Eugene and Gwendolyn Lux. Eugene was a graphic designer and Gwendolyn a sculptor and they were part of the American-European network of avant-garde artists in the years leading up to the Second World War. Eugene Lux played a role in the introduction and acceptance of Mondrian's work in the United States. This helped facilitate his emigration to New York in 1940, keeping him out of reach of the Nazis.

 Archief Piet Mondriaan
Photos from left to right: Piet Mondrian and Gwendolyn Lux (1934), portrait of Hendrik van Assendelft, letter from Mondrian to Van Assendelft (1914)
Source: RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History

Made possible by

The RKD's purchase was made partly possible by a financial contribution from the Mondriaan Fund, The Cornelis Hofstede de Groot Foundation/Friends of the RKD and the Fondation Custodia; and with thanks to the art dealer Bob Haboldt & Co.

Van Assendelft's letters in Kunstmuseum The Hague

A selection of Mondrian's letters to Van Assendelft are currently exhibited in a glass cabinet in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. A few letters to the artist Lux couple are exhibited in a cabinet at the RKD.

Mondrian Edition Project

The recently purchased letters by Piet Mondrian to Van Assendelft and the Lux couple, as well as the photos sent to Van Assendelft of (partially lost) paintings, will be published in due time on the website www.mondrianpapers.org. This academic, online edition offers access to the entire correspondence and theoretical writings of Mondrian to a wider audience. The Mondrian Papers is a collaboration between the RKD and the Huygens Institute for Dutch History (KNAW), in cooperation with the Kunstmuseum The Hague. For more information go to: www.mondrianpapers.org.