Broadway Boogie Woogie is one of the last works by Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian. Realized between 1942 and 1943, the painting depicts a vibrant grid of multi-colored lines and blocks of primary colors. The artwork exemplifies the artist’s period in the United States, where he moved after the start of World War II, and the revolutionary impact of New York on his artistic production.
What is Depicted in Broadway Boogie Woogie?
The painting is an abstract composition, articulated on a square format of about five feet by five feet. It features yellow lines interrupted by red, blue, and white squares, arranged on a bright white surface. There are also colored rectangular shapes placed asymmetrically between the white spaces. The squares juxtaposed next to each other and in pure colors create a shimmering effect. Broadway Boogie Woogie is one of the last works Mondrian completed before his death, executed after he moved to New York in 1940 to escape World War II. The tiny and sparkling blocks of color create a pulsing rhythm reminiscent of the vital and dynamic atmosphere of the U.S. metropolis.
From the stylistic point of view, Broadway Boogie Woogie represents a turning point in Mondrian’s aesthetic doctrine of Neo-Plasticism. Until then, his abstract paintings were restricted to basic horizontal and vertical lines and a limited color palette -the primary triad of red, yellow, and blue plus neutral colors like white, black, and grays. Broadway Boogie Woogie eliminates the rigid black grids, introducing multi-colored segments and juxtaposed squares. The optical effect is new: the composition is lively, and bright, and creates vibrancy. This is the second turning point in the artist’s career. By 1913 Mondrian had abandoned the typically Dutch representational landscape painting and moved closer to abstract art, more akin to his spiritual research. In the 1940s, with Broadway Boogie Woogie and his move to the United States, Mondrian introduced liveliness and rhythm, abandoning the almost scientific austerity that marked his works of the 1920s and 1930s.
Broadway Boogie Woogie Artwork Analysis
Broadway Boogie Woogie is strongly influenced by Mondrian’s move to the United States to escape World War II. The pulsating rhythm and vibration in the composition are reminiscent of the neon lights, traffic, and grid of New York City streets. Mondrian devoted his career to abstract art. In the United States elements of the real world started becoming inspirational.
The painting’s title establishes a symbolic link to the atmosphere of Broadway and the popular music Boogie Woogie. Mondrian was introduced to boogie-woogie on his first evening in New York and began frequenting the famous jazz club Minton’s Playhouse, where he became closer and closer to African-American Blues music.
The frenetic and syncopated rhythm of Boogie-Woogie dominates the painting. Mondrian’s words reveal the reason for his love of this musical genre. The painter saw similar goals between boogie-woogie music and his painting: “destruction of melody which is the destruction of natural appearance; and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means-dynamic rhythm.”
- Broadway Boogie Woogie is not Mondrian’s only painting devoted to music and dance. This passion is also present in three other works: Fox-Trot A (1930), Fox-Trot B (1929), and Victory Boogie-Woogie (1943/44, unfinished).
- Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow realized in 1930 exemplifies the Neoplasticism style for which Piet Mondrian is best known. It represents a grid formed by thick, sharp black lines on a white background, creating a series of squares and rectangles, some painted in yellow, red, and blue. Mondrian’s rigid geometric compositions were intended to represent the immutable structure of reality beyond appearances.