Van Doesburg and Mondrian Split

The friendship between Van Doesburg and Mondrian remained strong in these years, although their primary way of communication was by letter.

In 1923 Van Doesburg moved to Paris together with his later wife Nelly van Moorsel. Because the two men got to see each other on a much more regular basis the differences in character became apparent: Mondrian was an introvert, while van Doesburg was more flamboyant and extravagant. During 1924 the two men had disagreements, which eventually led to a (temporary) split in the same year. The exact reason for this split has been a point of contention among art historians; usually the divergent ideas about the directions of the lines in the paintings have been named as the primary reason: Mondrian never accepted diagonals, whereas Doesburg insisted on the diagonal's dynamic aspects, and indeed featured it in his art. Mondrian accepted some concepts of diagonals, such as in his "Lozenge" paintings, where the canvas was rotated 45 degrees, while still maintaining horizontal lines. In recent years, however, this theory gained critique from art historians such as Carel Blotkamp, who cites their different concepts about space and time as the main reason for the split. After the split, Van Doesburg launched a new concept for his art, Elementarism, which was characterized by the diagonal lines and rivaled with Mondrian's Neo-Plasticism.

In 1929 the two men reconciled when they accidentally met in a café in Paris.

n a world constructed of nothing but right angles in horizontals and verticals, how would a diagonal fare?

Would it be like extraordinary confusion and then recognition of a sphere in a flat two dimensional world (as in Edwin Abbott’s Flatland), or would it be an astonishing moment of discovery like Robert Hooke’s Micrographia images, or a creeping, sweeping acknowledgment of first-seen perspective in Paolo Uccello?

In the case of the cubist Piet Mondrian, it would be revulsion and disgust. Mondrian helped establish1 De Stijl (1917or thereabouts), with a philosophy of using lines to transform artistic thought onto canvas, and the lines were all horizontal or vertical, with square and rectangular shapes. These would represent the pure harmonies of expression, along with the primary colors as well as black and white.

Mondrian wrote “:... this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour."

Stijl co-founder, popularist, artist and editor of the movement’s journal, Theo van Doesburgh and his work (1924) introduced diagonals into the horizontal/vertical field in his painting “Arithmetische Compositie” and Mondrian quits the group.Van Doesburgh felt that the diagonal was more vital and important than the vertical and horizontal. Mondrian felt that this was wrong, and clearly raked the original ideals of De Stijl, and so quit the movement, which he felt to be compromised by one of its co-founders.