Piet Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie and science

This is a Dutch video about Piet Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie; and the MOLAB research on it.

From New Scientist:

I’M HOLDING a long black stick just millimetres from a delicate artwork worth at least $45 million. The work is a painting called Victory Boogie Woogie, the last piece by influential Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. And if I lose concentration, I could end up poking the stick right through it.

At the end of the stick is a painted white circle that is being photographed, together with my hand, by a member of MOLAB, a roving team of Italian art conservation researchers. Along with their transport – a van stuffed full of the latest analytical equipment – these researchers form part of a collaboration of 12 European institutions called Eu-ARTECH. …

Here at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague, Netherlands, MOLAB is collaborating with the Netherlands Institute of Cultural Heritage (ICN) to give Victory Boogie Woogie its first thorough scientific examination. The artwork is a feast of colour and motion – an impression created by patterns of interlocking coloured squares, some painted, others simply bits of coloured paper, card and plastic tape that are stuck or glued to the canvas. Mondrian almost certainly planned to replace the paper and tape with paint, but he died before he could complete the task. So the researchers’ aim is to find out exactly what materials he used, which parts were painted first or painted over later, or if bits were removed altogether. The secret hope of almost everyone here is to get a glimpse of Mondrian’s working style, a chance to get inside his head – and perhaps even discover how he intended this work to look when completed. …

Victory Boogie Woogie stands in sharp contrast to Mondrian’s previous works, rigid compositions with bold black lines and large patches of primary colours. Instead, it is a vibrant, rhythmic counterpart to the jazz music that surrounded Mondrian as he worked in 1940s New York. In January 1944, during the final two weeks of his life, he worked furiously on the painting. Those who saw it say the painting changed dramatically during this period, as Mondrian used coloured paper and plastic tape to quickly change the composition. The complexity this created makes the painting enormously difficult to analyse: it comprises some 582 different coloured sections which the Gemeente Museum team has meticulously numbered and recorded.

Major restoration programme for Mondrian paintings: here.

7 thoughts on “Piet Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie and science

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