Launch of The Mondrian Papers

Portret van Piet Mondriaan

On 12 March 2024 the RKD and the Huygens Institute launched the long-awaited first publication of the online edition of the complete letters and articles by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, The Mondrian Papers. A state-of-the-art digital edition platform has been developed to present the letters and articles, offering multiple innovative possibilities to search the material.

Mondrian correspondence

Over the course of his life, Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) sent and received many thousands of letters, postcards and telegrams. In total, more than 1,700 pieces of correspondence survive, more than 700 of which are in the collection of the RKD. So far only a few dozen of Piet’s letters have been published, of which the majority are available only in Dutch or French. In the online edition the letters and articles are presented in facsimile, with a transcription in the original language. An English translation is also provided for all, for the first time allowing the full corpus of letters to be studied by an international audience. The first part of The Mondrian Papers covers all of Mondrian’s letters and writings up until July 1919. Annotation of the texts is still in progress, but this work will be added in the course of this year, if not already available. Material from the period July 1919-February 1944 will be published in three instalments over the next few years.

Brief van Mondriaan
Letter from Piet Mondrian to Lodewijk Schelfhout, 7 June 1914, collection RKD

Innovative platform

The purpose-built innovative platform for the online edition allows word searches on Mondrian’s letters, which also link to information about works of art or people mentioned in the correspondence and articles. The chronological arrangement of the artworks illustrates and helps to understand the development of Mondrian’s work, combined with the relevant contextual materials, such as the artist’s earliest theoretical essays. In these he describes the evolution which, in his view, the art of painting had undergone from works done ‘from nature’ to the creation of something ‘purely spiritual’.

schermafbeelding van de editie
Screenshot of The Mondrian Papers

Various data sources

In The Mondrian Papers links are created between data from a variety of sources. Thus, information about Mondrian’s artworks will be taken directly from the new research platform RKD Research. In this way information contained in the edition will be kept up to date in the future. Equally, information stemming from the letters will be incorporated in existing datasets, so that not just the letters but also the people, exhibitions, works of art, etc. mentioned in them will remain up to date, with the information accessible in several different ways. 

Mondrian’s development up until 1919

The first part of the edition consists of the 331 earliest letters, and three theoretical texts, from the years 1892-July 1919. Amongst other things, this part deals with Mondrian’s training (1892-1897), his first Paris period (1912-1914), setting up the journal De Stijl (1917) and his development from a naturalistic to an abstract painter. The Mondrian Papers provide a new and comprehensive picture of the artistic and intellectual milieu in which Mondrian grew up. His letters are not just an important source for research into the Dutch painter’s life and work but can also be regarded as a chronicle of the cultural life of his time. Thanks to the many insightful comments that have been added to the texts, the publication of Part 1 of The Mondrian Papers will give a new boost to research into Dutch art and culture in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Foto van Piet Mondriaan
Portrait of Piet Mondrian, c. 1918, collection RKD