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TO SEPTEMBER 4
Those familiar with Mondrian’s best-known paintings usually assume that he was a formalist. The Dutch modern master didn’t agree, however, and this retrospective of almost half the 200 canvases he made in his life partially backs him up. The early, representational work shifts dramatically between muted forest scenes and vivid, semi-abstract scapes that go Van Gogh one better. As he settled into his mature style, the mood swings became less dramatic, but line and color still contended in his work. Mondrian is in many ways the model for the 20th-century abstract painter: He established a distinctive format and explored variations within it, often doing series of paintings on a single theme. He always insisted he was intuitive, though, and this show makes a case for that interpretation. Mondrian’s compositions may be reductive, but they’re seldom austere. At the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, 4th & Constitution NW. FREE. (202) 737-4215. (Mark Jenkins)