Three new Mondrian letters discovered

During her internship at the RKD, Jitske Lamain researched the Dutch artists' associations Piet Mondrian was a member of between 1892 and 1919. She did this as part of the Mondrian Edition Project. Notably, her research resulted in the discovery of three hitherto unknown letters by Mondrian. This concerns two letters to the Utrecht artists' association Kunstliefde and a letter of application by Mondrian for a job as a drawing teacher in Enschede.

A job application in Enschede

In August 1898, Mondrian requested the mayor of Amsterdam for a Certificate of Good Conduct, which he required for an application in Enschede for a municipal job. Based on this letter, it was previously assumed that Mondrian applied for a position as a drawing teacher in Twente. To further investigate this, Jitske conducted research at the municipal archive in Enschede, where she stumbled upon Mondrian's actual letter of application. The letter revealed that Mondrian applied for two temporary positions, but was eventually rejected for unknown reasons. Jitske previously published a blog post about this letter on

1. Letter from Piet Mondrian to College B&W Enschede, 1898, Stadsarchief Enschede
2. Letter from Piet Mondrian to Vereniging Kunstliefde, 1893, Het Utrechts Archief
3. Letter from Piet Mondrian to Vereniging Kunstliefde, 1897, Het Utrechts Archief

Art reviews at Kunstliefde

In March 1892, a few years before his job application in Enschede, Mondrian became a member of the Utrecht artists' association Kunstliefde. It was the first association Mondrian joined, even before he was due to start his studies at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (National Academy of Art) in Amsterdam in September 1892. Jitske discovered two undated letters from Mondrian in the archive of Kunstliefde, preserved at The Utrecht Archives. Remarkably, these had not been inventoried with the members' letters, but with the general letters concerning art reviews. Besides the larger exhibitions, Kunstliefde organised an annual art review regarding the work of its members in November. A circulating portfolio was compiled from the submitted works on paper, which circulated among artists' associations in other cities. Unlike Kunstliefde's various member exhibitions, these art reflections were not included in the exhibition list of Piet Mondrian: catalogue raisonné (1998). During her research on Kunstliefde, Jitske was able to conclude from price lists that Mondrian's work was part of the circulating portfolio several times from 1896 onwards, that is, in 1896/1897, 1897/1898, 1898/1899 and 1900/1901.

Dating the letters to Kunstliefde

As mentioned, both letters were essentially undated. That is, Mondrian did not sign them with a date. However, based on other indicators, the letters could still be dated, down to the very day even. The signature, including the address on the first letter, corresponds to a letter from October 1893 to Sebastiaan de Ranitz, secretary to Queen Regent Emma. At the top of the letter, in a different hand and in pencil, the year 1893 is noted. Assuming that the year is correct, the letter must have been written on the day of the only art review of that year, which took place on Tuesday 28 November 1893 at 19:30. This is confirmed as Mondrian writes about the exhibition 'this evening' and asks if the drawings can still be used for the 'portfolio'. With the second letter, Mondrian enclosed a signed receipt. This receipt, which has also been handed down, bears the date 11 February 1897. With that, the letter can be dated on that day as well. 

Jitske Lamain studies Art History: modern and contemporary art (MA) at Utrecht University and was an intern at the RKD from February 2023 to June 2023, where she was supervised by Wietse Coppes. She did this as part of the Mondrian Edition Project and worked on the research for the annotations of some of the circa 300 letters that will be published at by the end of 2023.