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Lost photograph from 1928 rediscovered

October 1, 2020

In March 1930 a photograph of Mondrian’s Paris studio appeared in the journal Das Kunstblatt. The photograph shows one of his easels standing almost flat against a wall decorated in the neoplastic style. Because the easel is painted half black and half white, the photograph has been dated to 1928, when Mondrian started adding more white elements to the neoplastic decoration of his studio. In 2012 Wietse Coppes had already suggested that this photograph was made by the Swiss historian of art and architecture Sigfried Giedion, but now the team at The Mondrian Papers has found the actual vintage print in the Giedion archive.

The photograph has been reproduced several times in various studies dedicated to Mondrian. Each time the image had to be taken from Das Kunstblatt, because the location of the original print was unknown. It was only in 2012 that it became clear that the photograph could be attributed with near certainty to Sigfried Giedion. In September 1928 he went to visit Mondrian’s Paris studio with his wife Carola Giedion-Welcker. Eighteen months later the photograph appeared as illustration to an article by Giedion-Welcker in Das Kunstblatt. When The Mondrian Papers recently contacted the Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur (gta) in Zürich in connection with Mondrian’s letters to Giedion, it turned out that the vintage print of the studio photograph shown here was preserved in his archive. This print, which was believed to be lost, gives a new impetus to research into Mondrian’s studio, because it shows many details that are not visible in the reproduction in Das Kunstblatt. The rediscovered photograph will shortly appear in print for the first time in an article about Mondrian’s studio in around 1930 by the scholar Marek Wieczorek.

Sigfried Giedion, Studio of Piet Mondrian, 1928, silver gelatin print, image courtesy Sigfried & Carola Giedion-Welcker Papers, gta, Zürich