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The Afterlife of Piet Mondrian

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian died in New York City in 1944, but his work and legacy have been far from static since then. From market pressures to personal relationships and scholarly agendas, posthumous factors have repeatedly transformed our understanding of his oeuvre. In The Afterlife of Piet Mondrian, Nancy J. Troy explores the controversial circumstances under which our conception of the artist’s work has been shaped since his death, an account that describes money-driven interventions and personal and professional rivalries in forthright detail.
Troy reveals how collectors, curators, scholars, dealers and the painter’s heirs all played roles in fashioning Mondrian’s legacy, each with a different reason for seeing the artist through a particular lens. She shows that our appreciation of his work is influenced by how it has been conserved, copied, displayed, and publicized, and she looks at the popular appeal of Mondrian’s instantly recognizable style in fashion, graphic design, and a vast array of consumer commodities. Ultimately, Troy argues that we miss the evolving significance of Mondrian’s work if we examine it without regard for the interplay of canonical art and popular culture. A fascinating investigation into Mondrian’s afterlife, this book casts new light on how every artist’s legacy is constructed as it circulates through the art world and becomes assimilated into the larger realm of visual experience.

320 pages | 22 color plates, 65 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2014

Art: American Art, Art Criticism, European Art


“Takes the reader on an eye-opening tour across the battleground of the artist’s posthumous reception. . . . This is an important, meticulously researched contribution to the story of how modern art was embedded in and exploited by corporate wealth and how it influenced every aspect of visual culture.”

Times Higher Education

“Superb. . . . Extraordinary and bold. . . . Postmodern receptivity has made us open to seeing many sides and audiences. And Troy has delivered a convincing demonstration of the ways in which Mondrian has become discursive effect.”

Oxford Art Journal

“Troy’s riveting text represents a major contribution to the history of modernism, offering new insights into matters of authorship, reproduction, taste and the market that shaped (and continues to shape) its history.”

Art History

“What’s a real Mondrian, and what isn’t? The answer is pursued here by the chair of the department of art and art history at Stanford—with the suspense we’d expect from Raymond Chandler or Rex Stout.”

Interior Design

“This absolutely terrific book should be required reading for all students of 20th-century art, artists, and anyone else interested in how an artist’s reputation is made.”


“By casting an academic gaze at the incremental rise in the Dutch abstract painter’s importance and popularity, Troy teases out some of the veiled mechanisms that can solidify an artist’s legacy—and maps a new model for the study of art history in the process. . . . [S]he makes a strong and necessary case for further exploration into aspects of private art collection, gallery politics, and intellectual property manipulation that are severely lacking from art history discourse.”

Rain Taxi

“This fast-paced, riveting narrative carries a strong punch. That financial considerations play a large role in the afterlife of artifacts probably will not surprise anyone, but the point rarely has such force as when Nancy Troy tracks the commercial forces at work in this case. Smart, fresh, and engrossing, The Afterlife of Piet Mondrian describes the material mechanisms of canonization in all their gritty and lurid detail.”

Michael Leja, University of Pennsylvania

 “Nancy Troy’s wise and meticulously researched book takes the reader to a new level in understanding how a seemingly stable body of great art is in fact the outcome of complex human drama, encompassing friendship, aesthetic passion, scholarly anxiety, monetary interests, conflicted institutions, stylistic glamour, national prestige, and sheer confusion. Rivetingly narrated, her deep investigation of Mondrian’s afterlife opens an essential way forward in our comprehension of modern art across the board.”

Thomas E. Crow, New York University

Table of Contents

Note to the Reader


 Victory Boogie Woogie

 Mondrian’s Furniture and the Walls of His New York Studio





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