mondrian, composition with grid 9 (checkerboard with light colors), 1919


Composition with Grids: Checkerboard Composition with Light Colors was created in 1919 on an 86 x 106 cm canvas.[1] Mondrian used oil as his medium for this work. The canvas is divided into a geometric grid system with 16 x 16 cm individual rectangular units. Thin black horizontal and vertical intersecting lines separating the individual units from adjacent ones create the grid. It can be seen that if the piece is split down the center vertically, creating two separate rectangles, that it is reminiscent of Golden Section. His palette choice are the recognizable primary colors consisting of yellow, blue, red, white, and gray; however one difference that can be noted in this painting is that the intensity of the colors are lesser than other paintings and the value is very light. The piece has an overall hazy feeling that it elicits, along with a brighter and lighter colors; it induces a sense of life and movement. Mondrian painted the units in patterns of colors that are constantly creating new formations and invite the viewer to create their own experience through variations of personal grouping patters.[2]

This artwork is one of the earliest examples of the de Stijl style. It is also one of the first in which Mondrian uses intersecting horizontal and vertical lines explicitly to create a canvas. Mondrian wrote, “Once we realize that equilibrated relationships in society signify what is just, then we shall realize that in art, likewise, the demands of life press forward when the spirit of age is ready.”[3]  Although there is no distinct balanced pattern to this painting, when it is viewed it manages to evoke a sense of harmony and equilibrium. Mondrian denies ever using the Golden Section, which was considered an expression of the universal harmony through a system of proportions, even though this piece resembles this pattern almost equivocally.[4] John Milner notes “Mondrian’s mathematics were still mystical, and that movement relied upon proportion, as well as the kinetics of colour and position.”[5]  The canvas would not have the perceived movement and flow that is does had it not been for the patterns and groupings in which Mondrian placed the color on the canvas. There is no distinctive figure within this work of art and nothing truly stands out, but instead this piece is comprised of many smaller elements that work together to create a whole piece of art that can be experience in a personal way by the viewer. This serves as a successful example of one of the foundations of this de Stijl movement.

As mentioned earlier, Mondrian’s palette in this painting is not of his usual intense, vivid, and pure primary hues, but instead lighter variations. Composition with Grids: Checkerboard Composition with Light Colors, can be thought of as a reflection or “reconstruction of a morning or afternoon sky.”[6] Even though this painting is quite systematic and ordered, it still has the ability to elicit a feeling of natural living. This was Mondrian’s way of successfully deconstructing nature into a series of mathematically arranged rectangular units.

It was not until 1919, the year in which this piece was created, that Mondrian came to the fulfillment of his ideals and how to express them artistically and dynamically. Although his style will go through many variations and Mondrian attempts numerous ways to express his ideals, this painting is one of the first in which his beliefs and thoughts were concrete in a way in which they could be expressed. His modular grid was established and this sets the basis for his future compositions. This painting serves as a tangible foundation on which Mondrian can build and expand his theories, standards, and principles onto his canvas .



















Blotkamp, Carel. Mondrian: The Art of Destruction. New York: Harry N. Abrams,

Incorporated, 1995.


Hunter, Sam, and John Jacobus. Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New

York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1985.


Milner, John. Mondrian. New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1992.


Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Grids: Checkerboard Composition with Light Colors.

oil on canvas,1919, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hauge.


Russell, John. The Meanings of Modern Art. New York, Harper & Row Publishers, 1974.





[1]Piet Mondrian, Composition with Grids: Checkerboard Composition with Light Colors,

oil on canvas, 1919, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hauge.

[2] Carel Blotkamp,  Mondrian: The Art of Destruction (New York: Harry N. Abrams,

Incorporated, 1995), 125.

[3] John Russell, The Meanings of Modern Art (New York, Harper & Row Publishers,

1974), 233.

[4] John Milner, Mondrian (New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1992), 151.

[5] John Milner, Mondrian, 151.

[6] Carol Blotkamp, Mondrian: The Art of Destruction, 126

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