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Art Review: Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel @ Courtauld Gallery

Art Review: Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel @ Courtauld Gallery
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) 1940-43 (two forms) Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 59.5 cm National Museum, Cardiff  © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2012
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) 1940-43 (two forms) Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 59.5 cm National Museum, Cardiff © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2012
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) 1937 (painting) Oil on canvas, 79.5 x 91 cm The Courtauld Gallery, London,  Samuel Courtauld Trust (Alistair Hunter Bequest, 1984) © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2012
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) 1937 (painting) Oil on canvas, 79.5 x 91 cm The Courtauld Gallery, London, Samuel Courtauld Trust (Alistair Hunter Bequest, 1984) © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2012
GMA 2502 001
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) Composition with Double Line and Yellow, 1932 Oil on canvas 45.3 x 45.3 cm Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh © 2012 Mondrian/ Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington DC
Piet Mondrian in Hampstead, c. 1939-1940 Photograph by John Cecil Stephenson  © Estate of John Cecil Stephenson/Tate Archive
Piet Mondrian in Hampstead, c. 1939-1940 Photograph by John Cecil Stephenson © Estate of John Cecil Stephenson/Tate Archive

If you don’t know who Piet Mondrian is you will undoubtedly be familiar with his compositions using bold black lines and primary colours. They are among the most famous pieces of abstract art, and many of them are displayed at the Courtauld gallery.

This exhibition explores the relationship between Mondrian and the British artist Ben Nicholson by examining the work of both artists side by side. It’s clear that Nicholson was inspired by Mondrian and the similarities in their artworks are evident.

Most people look at Mondrian’s paintings and think ‘I could do that’ but the brilliance of his art is that though it is quite spartan in nature, the bold blocks of colour always run to the edge of the canvas suggesting that this isn’t the entire picture and that we are only seeing a glimpse of something greater.

In contrast, Nicholson’s works can seem cluttered and yet somehow contained. Though he experiments with depth, his art is never as engaging or as mysterious as Mondrian’s. You have to feel some sympathy for Nicholson as many will find him wanting when compared to Mondrian and Picasso in two separate exhibitions that are currently on display.

Mondrian’s may not be everyone’s idea of great art, but if you’re a fan of his work then this exhibition is one you’ll want to see.

Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel is on at the Courtauld Gallery until 20 May. Admission is £6, concessions £4.50.

Last Updated 16 July 2015

Tabish Khan

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