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Piet Mondrian and Will Gompertz' Understanding Modern Art

Artifact Puzzles - Piet Mondrian Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle
Artifact Puzzles - Piet Mondrian Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

If you're looking for a fun book about modern art (hmmm... maybe coupled with one of our striking 20th century puzzles?), my current favorite is Will Gompertz' What Are You Looking At: The Suprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art.

Gompertz spins the history of modern art into a series of stories that flow and reinforce each other and have a salacious insider feel, and it's so well-crafted so that at the end you feel like you understand about as much as there is to understand about this crazy modern art thing.

His attitude is great: he starts with the story about Marcel Duchamp's urinal sculpture in 1917, but instead of pretending that's the most awesome thing ever, you feel like he's on your side as you try to make sense of something that silly and why it's considered important.

I loved his section on Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter who was so influential the word "mondrian" became it's own word for square and rectangle mosaics. What you find out is Mondrian wasn't some hack who thought it might be "creative" to paint squares, rather he was an obsessive visionary who spent years perfecting his now-famous style and earnestly felt this is how a painting should be. So ardent that he got in a huge fight with compatriot Van Doesberg about whether it was ok to have diagonal lines in a painting!

Our Mondrian puzzle would probably make Mondrian furious - the pieces are cut to tangram his perfected composition with lots of diagonal cuts across his thick black lines, and they simply demand to be put back together again.

It's a pretty darn hard puzzle for its small size - might have you feeling black and blue by the end of it :).

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