Mondrian and Nicholson @CourtauldGall

Some personal thoughts on the pairing of Mondrian and Nicholson at the Courtauld Gallery: to start with, I had not realised that the two artists knew each other well and had for a time neighbouring studios in Hampstead.
Both artists were clearly influenced by cubism – how could they not be? – but they have arrived in completely different places. Mondrian’s work has the fire of evangelical zeal and a belief that art can still change the world (when did we lose that?). He has reduced and reduced to arrive at the purest of geometrical one dimensional shapes and lines. I get none of that zeal from Nicholson whose work is softer, and by no means flat. His feels more individual, it would sit more comfortably in a room where the light changes, and the shadows of the reliefs would alter accordingly. Mondrian, by comparison, is concerned with notions of the universal, with de Stijl and furniture such as Gerrit Rietveld’s most uncomfortable looking chair.
The work of Nicholson’s that I love most is his later drawings of the 1970’s with line drawings over oil washes of scribbly colour and it feels like a very natural progression. Mondrian died in 1944; would he have progressed on to something different from his grids I wonder?
It was a really thoughtful pairing so thankyou to the Courtauld. Definitely worth a visit.
PS If you do go – don’t forget to slip in to the Renaissance room on your right as you go towards the ticket desk. Such exquisite paintings and carvings!

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