A few years ago the Dooyewaard Foundation acquired a plot of land (about an acre) with on it three old studios and a stone house. No one had ever made the connection with Mondrian.
Research in various archives turned up tantalizing clues but only after finding an original photograph with the van Rees family (Otto van Rees the Dadaist was the son of the owner of the land were the studio originally stood) and drawings from the RKD archives the Foundation could put one and one together.
The smallest of the three studios is one of several huts from the ‘Humanitaire Bosje’, formerly the colony of Professor van Rees between Torenlaan and Noolseweg in Blaricum. On the plot owned by Professor Jacob van Rees several huts were to be found where many people lived and worked between 1899 and 1927. Amongst these were his own children. Van Rees asked Rueter to build two country house style huts for them. His son, painter Dadaist Otto van Rees, lived there with Adya Dutilh en his daughter Mies with artist Jan Pieter Verwey who had gained a certain fame by being the Netherlands’ first conscientious objector to the draft ( even Leo Tolstoy expressed his consent to this act of insubordination). Otto van Rees lived in Paris for several years during which he probably met Piet Mondrian. In any case both painters must have met at avant-garde gatherings at the studio of art critic and painter Conrad Kickert.
The outbreak of the First World War prevented Piet Mondrian’s return to Paris from the Netherlands after a visit to his ailing father. Mondrian first went to Domburg and afterwards stayed in Laren from 1915-1919. He spent the summer of 1916 in the studio owned by Otto van Rees and the summer of 1917 in ‘Huisje de Vries’, one of the other huts on the grounds. The archives of the Gemeente Museum in The Hague provided a letter by Maronier which shows a drawing with caption ‘Huisje de Vries in which studio Mondrian, summer 1917’. Easily recognizable is the prominent chimney which even now marks the outside wall of the studio. De Vries was one of the teachers at the Humanitarian School established in the former Colony Residence.
Specifically in this colonial hut/studio ‘Huisje de Vries’ Mondrian frees himself further from figurative work and firmly presses ahead with his first attempts at abstract-geometrical work. In Paris in 1912 he painted an apple tree with curves and ovals cautiously inspired by cubism but in this studio the afore mentioned letter writer Maronier reports Mondrian working ‘…on a trained apple tree, one line a day…’. For the first time and after that for evermore his lines are straight. He uses horizontal and vertical as independent elements. Mondrian’s ideas about the harmony between these two are related to theosophical principles, a philosophy by which he was firmly led in those years. At the time there was an active group of followers in Laren and Blaricum. In 1916 he met Theo van Doesburg and Bart van der Leck ( incidentally soon to become Theo Lohmann’s neighbour at the time) and these three artists show, each in their own manner, an autonomous use of colour and form from 1917 onwards. Museum Kröller-Müller has Mondrian’s most important works from 1917 in their collection. In this studio the foundation was laid which, according to Maronier ‘… must have gradually led to the primary colour blocks held by black lines.’ It is also from this studio that Mondrian cooperates with Doesburg and van der Leck to give shape to the magazine and the consequent art movement De Stijl. De Stijl has been of significance for the European avant-garde.
All in all an important period in Mondrian’s development and in the history of art. In 1927 Theo Lohmann requests municipal permission to place this studio on his plot at Schapendrift/Eemnesserweg.