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Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872–1944)

c. 1912

Medium oil on canvas Measurements H: 37 x W: 27 7/8 x D: 2 1/4 in. (94 x 70.8 x 5.71 cm) Credit Patrons Art Fund Accession Number 61.1 Location Gallery 9, Scaife Galleries


In the period 1908-1914, Piet Mondrian treated his subjects, especially trees, with an analytical scrutiny and reconstruction that paralleled the interests of the French Cubist painters. In Trees the paint is applied in discrete bounded areas with small over-lapping parallel strokes. The comparatively restrained palette resembles the somber tones that facilitated the Cubist exploration of volumes and intersecting planes. In addition, Mondrian's canvas is devoted to a single motif. In this painting, the accidental and irregular features of the trees have been sup-pressed in favor of three inverted triangles. The predominant central one represents the spreading canopy of a large tree and is flanked by smaller trees, whose lesser crowns echo the pattern of intersecting arcs. The network of short vertical and horizontal lines throughout the painting is characteristic of virtually all of Mondrian's work around this time. However, Trees seems to be the only one from 1912 with a vertical format, suggesting that it was, in part, a transition to the next sequence of tree paintings, nearly all vertical compositions in which the forms are defined in angles and straight lines.