P. Mondrian, Painting No. 9, 1939-1942
Washington, DC, The Phillips Collection
Piet Mondrian was a Dutch artist who dedicated his artistic career to developing an art form that limited painting to its most essential elements: straight lines (vertical and horizontal), primary colors (red, yellow, blue, paired with black, white, and gray), geometric shapes, and an emphasis on the flat painted surface. In other words, Mondrian did not want to create an inauthentic “window onto the world” by depicting a representational subject. Rather, he aimed to show something truthful: the application of paint on a flat canvas.