8. Piet Mondrian’s Abstraction as a Way of Seeing the Sacred

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Lieke Wijnia [+-]
University of Groningen
Lieke Wijnia is curator of modern and contemporary collections at Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, and a fellow with the Centre for Religion and Heritage at the University of Groningen. She obtained MA degrees in heritage studies at Utrecht University and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In 2016 she cum laude defended her PhD thesis at Tilburg University, on perceptions of the sacred at Festival Musica Sacra Maastricht. Her postdoctoral work on the quest for the sacred in art museums was awarded the gold medal from the Teylers Theological Society in 2018. Her research on the spirituality of Piet Mondrian was awarded the inaugural Jeffrey Rubinoff Postdoctoral Award in 2018. This prize allowed her to produce the chapter for this volume.


Raised in a calvinist family and drawing from theosophy, sight has a crucial role in the art of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). He envisioned a future in which people would be spiritually able to experience the world's fundamental structures. I argue for a shift in scholarly focus from Mondrian's abstraction, which he called Beelding, to its visionary equivalent Ziening, which he coined for that spiritual engagement with visible reality. His art served as a precursor to this worldview. Paradoxically, while Mondrian's spirituality is strongly related to modern urban life, it is rooted in fundamentally pre-modern ideas on the universality of vision. Exploring Mondrian's art as embodiments of a worldview also creates a link to contemporary viewing practices. Building on the sensational and aesthetic turns in the study of religion, this approach reinforces there is more to Mondrian's legacy than initially meets the eye.

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Wijnia, Lieke. 8. Piet Mondrian’s Abstraction as a Way of Seeing the Sacred. Religion and Sight. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781797495. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35754. Date accessed: 21 Nov 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35754. Jul 2020

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