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RKD acquires previously unknown letters, postcards and photos by Piet Mondrian

October 5, 2019

The RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History purchased eighteen unknown letters and postcards by Piet Mondrian at an auction in Paris. The letters were to the Remonstrant cleric and collector Hendrik van Assendelft, and to an American couple who were fellow artists. The letters to Van Assendelft contain new information on Mondrian’s stay in the Netherlands during the First World War, when his work underwent the crucial development from naturalistic to abstract. The letters show that Van Assendelft was an important sounding board for Mondrian.

Mondrian and Van Assendelft
Mondrian met Van Assendelft in 1914 when a planned visit to the Netherlands turned into a longer than intended stay due to the outbreak of the First World War. From that moment on, Van Assendelft was of great support to Mondrian by buying some of his work and offering him a place to stay at his home in Gouda. The letters offer a glimpse into their budding friendship and contain until now unknown information on Van Assendelft’s role as an editor of the articles Mondrian published after 1917 in the magazine De Stijl. The artist and the priest shared an interest in the spiritual side of art, which Van Assendelft also expressed through his purchases of works by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. The Mondrian works from the collection previously belonging to Van Assendelft are now housed in the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and other important collections.

Mondrian and the Lux couple
At the same auction, the RKD also purchased letters by Mondrian to the American couple Eugene and Gwendolyn Lux. Eugene Lux was a graphic designer and his wife Gwendolyn a sculptor. They were part of the American-European network of avant-garde artists in the years leading up to the Second World War. Eugene Lux played an important role in the introduction and acceptance of Mondrian’s work in the United States. This helped facilitate his emigration to New York in 1940, keeping him out of reach of the Nazis.

Van Assendelft’s letters in Kunstmuseum The Hague
A selection of Mondrian’s letters to Van Assendelft are currently exhibited in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. A selection from the letters to the artist Lux couple are exhibited at the RKD.