The Mondrian collection is the pride and joy of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
. Consisting of nearly 300 paintings and works on paper, it illustrates the entire course of Mondrian's artistic development, offering a spectacular record of his path to abstraction. Between 2009 and 2015, all the paintings in the collection were individually examined and, where necessary, treated by a team of four conservators. Thanks to this large-scale Mondrian Restoration Project, these works can be seen and admired in optimal condition at the exhibition The Discovery of Mondrian from 3 June onwards.
The painting Farmhouse among trees (1906) had not left Gemeentemuseum storage for years, and it is easy to understand why. The farm was no longer visible to the naked eye. But now that the painting has been cleaned as part of the Mondrian Restoration Project, the outcome could hardly be more surprising. In the foreground we can suddenly see a grassy field surrounded by a hedge, with two farmhouses and a church tower behind it. This is just one of the results of the six-year Mondrian Restoration Project.
In the past, Piet Mondrian's works were stored and treated in very inconsistent ways. During regular examinations, the Gemeentemuseum conservators often saw huge differences in condition between paintings. This led them to take inventory of the condition of these works in 2008. A year later, the Mondrian Restoration Project began: all the Piet Mondrian paintings and drawings in the collection were examined and, where necessary, treated. This systematic, large-scale approach to an artist's oeuvre is exceptional in the Dutch and international museum sector.
During the project, a great deal was learned about Mondrian's techniques and use of materials, his probable intentions, the choices he made when painting, his doubts and his artistic genius. The specialists involved were constantly finding new topics for further research, both in the natural sciences and in the field of art history. It is important to the Gemeentemuseum to share these findings. The book Mondrian Restoration Project (2009-2015): Restoration of a World-Class Collection presents the reader with an overview of the project
The publication offers insight into what the conservators encountered: for instance discoloured varnish, raised and loose paint, fungi, dead flies, cracks, warped canvas and crooked stretcher frames. It describes a number of case studies and explains how the conservators solved particular problems and what they discovered about Mondrian's painting technique. For example, they learned about his questing nature, his many doubts and his love of experimentation.
The book is available in Dutch and English editions.