The Mondrian House in Amersfoort, the Netherlands

This year is the 100th anniversary of De Stijl the art movement Mondrian helped to create and Stuart Forster goes to see the house where he was brought up

The Mondrian House stands in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, and was the birthplace of artist Piet Mondrian, the artist who became one of the founding members of the influential De Stijl art and design movement. The former school house, where Mondrian’s father worked, underwent a complete renovation to reopen in 2017 on the anniversary of Mondrian’s birthday, 7 March.

The restoration was planned as part of a year celebrating a century since the first edition of De Stijl magazine was published in the Netherlands. De Stijl featured articles by designers, architects and artists who believed their work could lead to the betterment of society. The distinctive use of primary colours and abstraction are among the chief characteristics of the movement, which has been described as “the Netherlands’ most important contribution to 20th century culture.”

The house stands on Kortegracht, meaning ‘short canal’. Piet Mondriaan (he later dropped an ‘a’ from the spelling of his surname) was born there in the spring of 1872 when the area was relatively impoverished. It is a two-minute walk from the centre of Amersfoort, a city with around 150,000 inhabitants, in the province of Utrecht. It’s approximately 50 minutes’ train journey from Amsterdam.

Despite being an attractive city, with a centre dating from the Middle Ages, Amersfoort lags well behind other Dutch cities in terms of visitor numbers. The impact of the reopening has been immediate, with visitor numbers to the attraction tripling. That’s one reason why the Mondrian House is such an exciting project for the city, which is also the location of De Stijl-influenced Rietveld Pavilion.

The restoration and redesign was led by JDdV Architecten and cost just €950,000. Funding came from the Mondriaan Fund, KF Hein Fund, VSB Fund, PUG, Zabawas, Social Cultural Fund of the Amersfoortse Verzekeringen and the Hendrik Muller Fund.

The Mondrian House holds an informative exhibition that puts the artists life into context via a timeline and traditional exhibits, including artefacts and informative legends, providing background. Copies of several of his paintings are displayed.

The building also houses two video installations, which set Mondrian’s works to music that he is known to have liked. At the end of August, the 3D video installation that’s said to provide an insight into Mondrian’s mindset as he painted Victory Boogie Woogie, in the 1940s, resulted in the Mondrian House receiving an honourable mention an the Museums in Short award, for short films in museums. The video was produced by the Utrecht bureau Tinker imagineers.

Another video installation, The World of Piet Mondrian, lasting five minutes on 13 units, shows Mondrian’s evolution as an artist. He developed from being a landscape painter and a member of The Hague School, known for their subdued palette, into a man renowned for his boldly coloured abstract paintings.

The front room of the Mondrian House displays original artworks and the register of births that records his arrival into the world.

The attraction also houses a recreation of his Paris studio from the 1920s. The revolutionary design of his studio, with light walls, ensured it was visited by many leading artists.

The upper level of the building hosts temporary exhibits and has a room for children’s activities. They include a scavenger hunt, workshops and studio for art-related experiments. Lessons are given to primary school children and teaching material has been developed.

The Mondrian House is accessible to wheelchair users, who can bring an accompanying helper free-of-charge and people with registered guide dogs can also visit.

Adult entry to the Mondrian House costs €10. Entry is free for children aged up to five. It costs €8 for kids aged six to 17 years of age. Visitors do not need to pay to enter the Mondrian House’s art shop or to eat and drink at the museum café, which is proving popular as a meeting place for Amersfoort residents.

The Mondrian House is informative about the life and time of Piet Mondrian and one of the Netherlands’ key attractions in a year with widespread commemorations of the De Stijl movement 100 years on from its origin.

Further information

Discover more about art exhibitions, from Mondrian to Dutch Design on the Holland.com website.

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