Recordings for Adults
The state of preservation of Abstraction is so exception that is serves as a touchstone in understanding the artist’s late technique. Labored reworkings were a normal part of Mondrian’s process, and this is reflected in the manner in which he dated Abstraction, signing it “PM” and “39/42,” the years it was begun in Paris and completed in New York. In addition to the unbounded red square inserted into the yellow field at the bottom, other changes can be seen with the aid of a microscope. The small red square at the upper right edge was originally blue, the blue square a darker blue, and the small red square at the bottom right edge a deeper red. Additionally, Mondrian reworked the black lines in the composition, adding a third horizontal bar below center. The artist’s working technique was very fastidious, and he scraped away paint down to the ground when making even small changes to the position of the grid lines and color fields. The surface texture of the black lines is rougher where they have been scraped and repainted. An examination of the painting under transmitted infrared light reveals the degree to which the lines were shifted, because the light passes more readily through the thinned areas where the paint was scraped away.
The painting is preserved in its original unvarnished state, though Mondrian selectively coated the black lines to give them emphasis. Under ultraviolet light one can see where the coating was doubled at the intersection of lines, because the fluorescence is brighter in those areas. It is fortunate that the Kimbell’s painting has never been separated from its original frame, since frames were such an important part of Mondrian’s aesthetic that he made them himself.