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RKD solves puzzle of unidentified Piet Mondrian painting

July 10, 2017

10 July 2017 – Thanks to the discovery of a photograph of an exhibition from 1925 we have finally been able to identify a Mondrian painting which was lost during the Second World War. This discovery led to an alteration of two entries in the Mondrian oeuvre catalogue.

A recently discovered photograph of the 1925 Mondrian – Man Ray exhibition at the Dresden gallery Kunstausstellung Kühl & Kühn (fig. 1) has enabled Wietse Coppes, curator at the RKD – Netherlands Institute of Art History, to identify a painting by Piet Mondrian that was previously known only from an inventory. The photograph was found in the archive of Mondrian expert Joop M. Joosten (1926-2017) which was recently acquired by the RKD.

The painting is described in the inventory as Komposition XIV, 1922, measuring 62 x 62 cm, but without an image. It was included in the 1998 catalogue raisonné of Mondrian’s work solely on the basis of this information. The exhibition photograph shows us the actual painting for the first time; it can be seen to the left of the doorway.

This also solves a second problem which concerns another unidentified painting in the same catalogue raisonné, in this case a work which was, interestingly, only known through a reproduction in Mondrian’s estate (fig. 2). Thanks to the photograph of the gallery Kunstausstellung Kühl & Kühn, it was possible to match the work mentioned in the inventory to the reproduction. Regrettably Komposition XIV was lost during the Second World War. For this reason and because we only have black and white photographs, the colour scheme of the painting can no longer be established.