Page 24 - Studio International - December1996
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colour and form.
                                                                                    It is now over thirty years ago, and yet the impact of that
                                                                                   studio and the magnificent paintings he showed us last
                                                                                   forever in my mind.
                                                                                    He showed us paintings with the utmost grace and
                                                                                   gentleness-also with a humility which made our love for
                                                                                   him instant and everlasting.
                                                                                    When we left Mondrian's studio we sat down outside a
                                                                                   cafe, and over another cup of tea we discussed the experi-
                                                                                   ence and said that this was not the end of anything-it was
                                                                                   the beginning of something. If every artist could truly, and
                                                                                   with dedication, pull the string with which he was born
                                                                                   -to the end-then a new concept could evolve.
                                                                                    Each of us has, within, his own calligraphy; but it is only
                                                                                   by pursuing what is our true identity that we can expand
                                                                                   and develop the world of form, colour and experience.
                                                                                    In those days we were very poor. To sell something for
                                                                                   £40 was a great occasion.
                                                                                    We kept in touch with Mondrian; but alas, I have none
                                                                                   of the letters. When things worsened in Paris, Ben
                                                                                   Nicholson helped him to come to England and found him
                                                                                   a studio. It was a dreary room overlooking ours, but in a
                                                                                   week Piet Mondrian had turned it into his Montparnasse
                                                                                   Studio. He got cheap furniture from Camden Town-
                                                                                   painted it white, his wonderful squares of primary colours
                                                                                   climbed up the walls. His paintings and canvases were
                                                                                   all in evidence.
                                                                                    Once again I was struck by his most extraordinary grace
                                                                                   and strength.
                                                                                    He often asked us to cross over to his studio and discuss
                                                                                   the latest work. Again, this was done with the utmost
        Composition London 1940-42   red-and if only one of these in the picture, why then it   grace of thought and movement.
        Oil                     sings and calls for its complement like a lonely artist
        32 1/2 x 28 in.                                                             I was a bit nervous about Piet coming over to my
        Albright-Knox Art Gallery,   hermit in a sparse upper studio, a spirit searching for new   studio. I knew he preferred a less violent atmosphere for
        Buffalo, New York (Room of   realism like a scientist in outer untrodden space. How
        Contemporary Art Fund)   lonely those on the frontiers of outward bound thought !   his own thoughts.
                                                                                    We had three studios-Ben's just under Mondrian's.
                                Later he wrote to me from London. 'No, I cannot come   Mine, just full of stone dust, and a third studio just full
                                to Cumberland. It is too green. I must go to America,   of children.
                                my pictures were nearly bombed. I must protect them,   Nevertheless, Piet Mondrian became a pillar of strength.
                                but you in England will win in the end however hard it   He, with utter equanimity, had tea with the triplets in the
                                may be-for we are fundamentally right.' This is how the   nursery studio. Three pairs of eyes stared at him and he
                                letter remains in my mind, and I don't think that I will   treated them as grown-ups which filled them with sur-
                                go up to my attic to see if I have remembered the words   prise and wonder.
                                as they were written and still written on that yellow note-
                                                                                    With Ben, of course, he was at complete ease.
                                paper. 	                                      q     When he came to my studio I pulled the curtains, as I
                                                               Winifred Nicholson
                                                                                   had planted flowering shrubs in the tiny garden. But
                                We knew, of course, by photographs, the works of Mon-  Mondrian seemed to like my carvings and patted them
                                drian. We asked if we might see him on one of our visits  as though they were children or cats or dogs-which of
                                to Paris in the early 1930's.                      course they were ! And very soon all the curtains were
                                 In London it had been said that the works of Piet Mon-  drawn-exposing the flowering shrubs and the plebeian
                                drian were the 'end of painting'. I trembled at the  plants.
                                thought of meeting him and seeing the paintings and the   But Mondrian seemed to love this family life and would
                                environment.                                       relax and talk about painting and about 'jazz'. His intel-
                                 We arrived, and the door opened and there was a man  lect was superb.
                                with twinkling eyes and kindness in mouth and expres-  My job was to work and rear the children. Ben Nichol-
                                sion. Also an extraordinary grace of movement, and grace  son saw to it that Mondrian was not ill and that he had
                                and manner of welcome.                             his baked potatoes and tomatoes and his paints.
                                 We entered, and I, as a sculptor, was entranced by his   Then came the imminence of war. All our scant earn-
                                grace and delicacy of welcome. He served us tea on a  ings diminished, Mondrian's too.
                                white table with red and blue boxes containing a few bis-  We had been asked for a holiday by Adrian Stokes, to
                                cuits. I looked up at the great studio and began to take in  bring the children to St Ives. And, if war broke out to
                                the force and power of this astonishing creative glow of   keep them there in safety. Obviously, a glass roofed studio
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