“Intellect confuses intuition.”
Piet Mondrian, painter, Dutch
Counter Culture article on Mondrian, “Mondrian’s Evolution”
The painting pictured here, Victory Boogie-Woogie (1944), was his last work. It is arguably his most famous and certainly the most expensive, as it was bought by the Dutch government in 1997 for 82 million guilders (or 37 million euro). Many consider it an important example of abstract art and one of the artist’s best works.
And to think that it wasn’t even finished.
You may be forgiven for not realizing this when you look at the image above. After all, Mondrian was known for his abstract paintings consisting of straight lines, primary colours and large white areas, and in that regard Victory Boogie-Woogie seems to fit in just fine. Sure, it differs somewhat from the iconic style that inspired so many others.
For one, there are no black lines in Mondrian’s last painting, there are coloured planes within coloured planes and, apart from primary colours, a light grey is used. The diamond or lozenge shape of the canvas is uncommon, but something he had used a few times before. For all intents and purposes, Victory Boogie-Woogie appears finished and is a great contribution to the artist’s legacy. However, Mondrian was not satisfied with the composition and was still working on the painting when he was taken ill and moved to the hospital. He was using pieces of coloured tape instead of paint, enabling him to make quick and temporary changes. It appears that he was not yet done with these changes when he died, as the work was later found still sitting on the easel, futilely awaiting the return of its creator. The fact that the painting is considered unfinished is undoubtedly part of its appeal. It begs the question what Mondrian was trying to say or show, and in what way he thought he was failing.