Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

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

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Lieke Wijnia [+-]
Museum Catharijneconvent
Lieke Wijnia is curator at Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht and a fellow with the Centre for Religion and Heritage at the University of Groningen. After obtaining MA degrees in heritage studies at Utrecht University and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she defended her PhD thesis cum laude at Tilburg University in 2016, on perceptions of the sacred at Festival Musica Sacra Maastricht. She recently published Beyond the Return of Religion: Art and the Postsecular(Brill, 2018). Her essay collection on the quest for the sacred in art museums was honoured by the Teylers Theological Society with their 2017 gold medal. Her research on Piet Mondrian’s spirituality was honoured with the inaugural Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park Postdoctoral Award in 2018. That award 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. 143-159 Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781797495. Date accessed: 05 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35754. Jul 2020

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