Piet Mondrian - loved jazz (but couldn't dance!)
On the anniversary of his birth find out how jazz informed his art and why musician Thelonius Monk would often refer to Mondrian's paintings when describing his own compositions
Piet Mondrian who was born on this day (March 7) in 1872 was actually way more sociable than his paintings might lead you to believe. He could often be found tearing up the dance floors of London and New York to his favourite jazz records - often with socialite and collector Peggy Guggenheim and abstract expressionist painter Lee Krasner. Indeed, with the painting below, Broadway Boogie-Woogie, Mondrian set out to depict the rhythm and the energy of his Manhattan whirl.
Jazz and painting turned out to be a two way inspiration. In the later stages of his short life, Mondrian became on good terms with the jazz musician Thelonius Monk, and when Monk spoke about his music he often did so by referring to the precision with which Mondrian placed a line or applied a colour to the structure of his paintings.
Others however, were somewhat less enamoured: Miriam Gabo, the wife of the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo, once remarked of Mondrian: he “was a terrible dancer Virginia (Pevsner) hated it and I hated it. We had to take turns dancing with him!"
By examining Mondrian's fascinating process of working - through his drawings, studies and finished paintings - The John Milner, the author of our book Mondrian, explores the energetic tension between the painter's brilliantly disciplined compositions and their underlying subject matter. You can buy Mondrian here.