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Pioneer in a world of abstract art

Using simple elements like horizontal and vertical lines and primary colours Piet Mondrian created pieces that have been discussed by many people.

Even though his last works are abstract, he has not always been an abstract painter.

His arts career started shortly after primary school. From this moment he started taking art classes and had many different teachers. After failing a qualification test for an arts school because of the subject ‘anatomy’, Mondrian started to focus on the painting of landscapes. In the following years his painting style was influenced by other painters like Van Gogh and Matisse. His style shifted from realistic to more expressive, his lines became harsher and colours more dramatic.

This change in style became even more apparent after his introduction to cubism in Paris in 1911. During his time in Paris he mainly painted trees and vineyards. With time these paintings become less and less realistic.

After his return to the Netherlands in 1914 his works started showing less signs of realism and when he created his first paintings in his characteristic style in 1917, he had really become an abstract artist. By then he also contributed to the Dutch magazine ‘De Stijl’, created by a collective of artists that was created with the goal of causing a reformation in art by using simple forms and as little colour as possible.

After his return to Paris in 1919 he really started to bloom as an abstract artist.

In the next years he created more abstract works and started exploring other ways to use his line work. In 1938 he moved to New York where he was introduced to boogie woogie and blues music. This music and other influences caused a renewal in his style and his thick black lines to divide the rectangles completely disappeared. This is when he started one of his most famous works ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’, a collection of colour panels separated by lines of smaller colour panels.

In 1944 Piet Mondrian died of pneumonia leaving ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ unfinished. His works have had a significant effect on the development of the art of the 20th century, as well as on design and architecture, making him one of the most influential modern artists.

Text written in March 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

I’m Flore Paumen, 18 years old, and currently taking a gap year. I love making art, music, playing guitar, photography and traveling.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.