In Atomic Ranch’s 132-page special The Design Issue, we take a look at the interdisciplinary nature of Midcentury Modern design and art. Museum curators take us on a tour of exhibitions that showcase this cross-pollination. The midcentury included designers and artists in all kinds of media, not just painting, applying artistic principles and attention to furniture, ceramics, print-making, textiles and more. And that includes favorites like Piet Mondrian.

Painting still did have a role in this conversation, however, and Saint Louis Art Museum curator Simon Kelly points to a prime example. Mondrian’s paintings, like “Composition of Red and White: Nom 1/Composition No. 4 with red and blue,” inspired Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair. Kelly calls the chair a “3D version” of the painting, and places the two pieces side by side in the European abstraction collection at the museum “to make that point.” Mondrian’s work itself was inspired by jazz, Kelly explains, and the influence of the work rippled out to this Rietveld chair and into popular culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Mondrian had connections with designers, Kelly says, and affirms that the relationship between his geometric, color-block paintings and Midcentury Modern architecture and design “is a good one to make.”

"Composition of Red and White" by Piet Mondrian
“Composition of Red and White: Nom 1/Composition No. 4 with red and blue” (oil on canvas; 39 1/2 x 39 inches) by Piet Mondrian (1938-42).
On display at the Saint Louis Art Museum

When it comes to this particular painting, Kelly notes, “One of the interesting things to me is that he did work on the composition over at least four years. He added the color blocks around the edge, the touches of red and blue around the edges. He also added the third line up from the bottom right. He said he wanted to give the composition more ‘boogie woogie’—those were his words—because he was inspired by jazz and thought of color as having vibrating musical quality. So he added those colors to give more energy to his painting.”

Red Blue Chair_WEB
Designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Dutch, 1888–1964; Red Blue Chair, 1919–20; painted wood; 34 1/4 x 23 5/8 x 32 1/2 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Shop Fund and funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Randy Lipton, Director’s Discretionary Fund, the Richard Brumbaugh Trust in memory of Richard Irving Brumbaugh and Grace Lischer Brumbaugh, Alison and John Ferring, Roxanne H. Frank, Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg, and Susan and David Mesker 60:2004

Rietveld, too, took time revising his chair, which he originally painted blue. To learn more, visit the Saint Louis Art Museum to see the works side by side. In the meantime, learn more about the interdisciplinary and paradigm-shifting approach Midcentury Modern creators took in “Mod Masterpieces” in Atomic Ranch’s special The Design Issue.


Atomic Ranch Design Issue 2016Beyond Mondrian: The Design Issue

Whether it’s for the low-down on your favorite iconic designers to expert insight on furniture design, Atomic Ranch‘s second newsstand-only special issue, The Design Issue, is a must-have for  your coffee table, bedside table or Tulip table! Find this extra-large issue today at your favorite newsstand or order online.