Conference: Mondrian, Nicholson and 20th Century Abstraction

Piet Mondrian in Hampstead, c.1939-40

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Saturday March 3rd, 2012, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

In 1936 Alfred H. Barr Jr’s history-making-and-shaping survey Cubism and Abstract Art put Piet Mondrian and the British artist Ben Nicholson together as the older and younger leaders of ‘geometrical abstraction’ in the Western World. It also announced that ‘geometrical abstraction’ was in decline, a judgement Mondrian immediately dismissed. For him, writing to Nicholson, ‘geom. abstr.’ was always in the ascendant.

This conference at the Courtauld Institute of Art will respond to the stimulus offered by the exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery Mondrian/Nicholson: In Parallel, to explore the issues raised by the kind of non-figurative art for which Mondrian and Nicholson stood in the 1930s and after. What was specific to this kind of art both in the particular achievements of these two artists and more generally? How could it assert its importance in the 1930s, and what could it mean in a decade in which Utopian optimism met anxiety and fear in the descent towards war? Was there, despite Barr’s judgement, a future for what he dubbed ‘geometrical abstraction’, even beyond Mondrian’s death in 1944 and beyond the Second World War?

Among those speaking will be Hans Janssen from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, Michael White from the University of York, and Lee Beard, editor of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Nicholson. There will also be free entry to the exhibition throughout the day, and the conference will end with an open discussion in which the curators involved, Christopher Green, Barnaby Wright and Lee Beard will participate.

Speaker(s): Ryan Andrews; Lee Beard (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Sophie Bowness; Chris Green (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Hans Janssen (Gemeentemuseum, The Hague); Peter Khoroche (Independent Nicholson specialist); Vanja Malloy (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Samuel Rose (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Michael White (University of York); Barnaby Wright (The Courtauld Gallery)

Ticket/entry details: £16 (£11 students, Courtauld staff/students and concessions) Book online: http://courtauld-institute.digitalmuseum.co.uk Or send a cheque made payable to ‘Courtauld Institute of Art’ to: Research Forum Events Co-ordinator, Research Forum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, stating the event title ‘Mondrian/Nicholson’ conference. Enquiries: ResearchForumEvents@courtauld.ac.uk

Organised by: Christopher Green, Barnaby Wright and Lee Beard

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