Teachers Lesson Plans

An Introduction to Pictorial Space

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Simone Martini, St. Catherine of Alexandria, circa 1320-1325 and Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 12 with Blue, 1936-1942

It may seem strange to compare a representational painting to an abstract work. At first glance, nothing looks alike. The subject and the technique used are almost at opposite ends. More than five hundred years separate these paintings. Yet, both artists had a similar intention. Both paintings depict the sacred. The portrait of Saint Catherine is truly not a portrait in the modern sense of the word, since nobody knows the real features of the saint. She is depicted according to religious conventions and Byzantine artistic symbolism that Simone Martini enriched with subtle relief and vivid colours. Piet Mondrian was also interested in "religious" subjects. Fascinated by esotericism and follower of theosophy, he tried to transpose the order of things onto the canvas-for example, the opposition between spirit and matter by bringing together vertical elements (principle of will) and horizontal elements (principle of rest). Both works depict two aspects of the same representation of divinity or, more precisely, spirituality.