Piet Mondrian intended his abstract or so-called "neo-plastic" paintings to express his fundamentally spiritual notion that universal harmonies preside in nature. The horizontal and vertical elements of his compositions, assiduously calibrated to produce a balanced asymmetry, represented forces of opposition that parallel the dynamic equilibrium at work in the natural world. By 1921 Mondrian had distilled his compositions into black lines that intersect at right angles, defining rectangles painted only in white or gray and the three primary colors.
In 1918 the artist turned one of these square canvases 45 degrees to rest "on point," doing so without rotating the linear elements within the composition. Approximately three years later he merged that format with the elemental color scheme of his mature works to produce this monumental painting, the earliest of the neo-plastic diamond or lozenge compositions. Repainted around 1925, when the black lines were thickened, this picture relates to several other works of the 1920s, where color is restricted to the periphery. Mondrian said the diamond compositions were about cutting, and indeed the sense of cropping here is emphatic. Forms are incomplete, sliced by the edge of the canvas, thus implying a pictorial continuum that extends beyond the physical boundary of the painting.