Book: Religion and Sight
Chapter: 8. Piet Mondrian’s Abstraction as a Way of Seeing the Sacred
Raised in a calvinist family and drawing from theosophy, sight has a crucial role in the art of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). He envisioned a future in which people would be spiritually able to experience the world's fundamental structures. I argue for a shift in scholarly focus from Mondrian's abstraction, which he called Beelding, to its visionary equivalent Ziening, which he coined for that spiritual engagement with visible reality. His art served as a precursor to this worldview. Paradoxically, while Mondrian's spirituality is strongly related to modern urban life, it is rooted in fundamentally pre-modern ideas on the universality of vision. Exploring Mondrian's art as embodiments of a worldview also creates a link to contemporary viewing practices. Building on the sensational and aesthetic turns in the study of religion, this approach reinforces there is more to Mondrian's legacy than initially meets the eye.