Cynics with too much time on their hands may idly speculate that Dutch artist Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (1872-1944) changed his name to Piet Mondrian because it is an anagram of 'I paint modern,' and Piet identified this as a cute marketing ploy to use on early 20th century social media (Almanackagram). The truth is that he dropped the 2nd 'a' in his surname to celebrate moving from the Netherlands to Paris in 1911, thinking, somewhat bizarrely, that dropping an 'a' would better integrate him into the French avant-garde (or vnt grde, as Piet called it). What Piet failed to grasp was that to stand out from the crowd of world famous artists painting the town red in the bars and cafes of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century it would probably have been better to add a 3rd 'a'.
In 1918 Piet became infected with Spanish Flu, and around the same time, in Paris, he caught a nasty dose of Cubism from Picasso and Georges Braque. The Cubist bug had far greater effect on Mondrian's life. It eventually turned him from a relatively conventional painter into one which transformed his work into something recognisable, worldwide, even today, especially when printed on your mouse pad, coffee mug, duvet cover, tea towel, pair of socks etc etc
It may seem hard to believe that Mondrian's infamous 'grid' paintings - which, to some, are a cute but spartan con job that he could breezily knock off in an afternoon whilst waiting in for an Amazon delivery - are deeply rooted in spiritual belief. Mondrian was a member of the Theosophical Society, an occult grouping founded in New York in 1875 by Russian emigre to the USA Helena Blavatsky. The philosophy of the Theosophists could politely be described as a cultish mish-mash of Buddhism, Freemasonry and Scientology, presided over by the enigmatic 'Masters' - seemingly mystic fusions of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Theosophy was not a religion but a system that embraces the 'essential truth' underlying religion, philosophy and science. Through Theosophy Piet believed that he freed objects by simplifying them, ie, breaking them down into their most fundamental and purest elements. This, of course this led to him using just three primary colors (red, blue and yellow), three primary values (black, white and gray) and the two primary directions (horizontal and vertical).
It is probably worth noting here that Mondrian was not a hopeless ascetic - he was a avid foodie, loved dancing and jazz, had an 'unusually intense' interest in women, was obsessed with Walt Disney's film Snow White, and, the ultimate accolade for any artist surely, was denounced as a degenerate by Hitler.
Let me be clear: I like Mondrian's work. However, when any artist starts talking like this - 'I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true' - the klaxon on my BovineExcrement'O'meter starts honking with gusto. That's all very well Piet but...er...how's your pic going to look on the wall above my IKEA sofa?
Please note: Any similarity between a geniune Mondrian painting, worth squillions, and this picture you see here - with its diagonal lines, pastel shades and nightmarish background resembling the lovechild of an unnatural union of paintings by Edvard Munch and Jackson Pollock - is purely coincidental.