how to describe piet mondrian art of the gray tree
Gray Tree is an oil painting by Piet Mondrian. This painting was made in 1911 on canvas on a board measuring 78.5 × 107.5 cm. It is exhibited at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague. 
The work came at a time when Mondrian was beginning to experiment with Cubism: its foreground and background elements seem to intermingle, and the palette is very restricted. The tree is subtly oval in form, following another Cubist practice seen in works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Mondrian’s oval became explicit, framing the work, in paintings that followed over the next three or four years. Apple Tree in Flower, also from 1912, is a similarly sized composition. Though the outline of the “apple tree” recalls that of Gray Tree, the work is significantly more faceted and abstract.
In 1912, or perhaps as early as the winter of 1911/12, Mondrian came back to the theme of trees in a large drawing in black chalk, in which his unmistakable aim was to bring the three-dimensional volume of the bare tree, with its twisted branches, onto the surface of the picture, into the second dimension. His project was to transform the thing that he saw in front of him into a rhythmic sign on his sheet of paper. This drawing became the starting point for at least three paintings: the The Gray Tree reproduced here; a closely related canvas, somewhat more oblong in shape and thus a little closer to the drawing; and the Flowering Apple Tree.
The Gray Tree is one of the first paintings in which Mondrian applied to a natural subject the principles of cubist composition that he was in the process of assimilating and working out in his own way. At the same time, it is a continuation of the series on the Tree theme, which began with the studies for the Red Tree of 1908. Although four years elapsed between the Red Tree and the The Gray Tree, it would be a mistake not to see them as two links in a single chain of development.
This canvas presents the viewer with the culmination in Mondrian’s life-long pursuit of conveying the order that underlies the natural world through purely abstract forms on a flat picture plane. Broadening the use of his basic pictorial vocabulary of lines, squares and primary colors, the black grid has been replaced by lines of color interspersed with blocks of solid color. This, and his other late abstract paintings, show a new, revitalized energy that was directly inspired by the vitality of New York City and the tempo of jazz music. The asymmetrical distribution of the brightly colored squares within the yellow lines echoes the varied pace of life in the bustling metropolis, one can almost see the people hurrying down the sidewalk as taxi cabs hustle from stop-light to stop-light. Broadway Boogie-Woogie not only alludes to life within the city, but also heralds New York’s developing role as the new center of modern art after World War II. Mondrian’s last complete painting demonstrates his continued stylistic innovation while remaining true to his theories and format.
Pier and Ocean marks a definitive step in Mondrian’s path toward pure abstraction. Here he has eliminated diagonal and curved lines as well as color; the only true reference to nature is found within the title and the horizontal lines that allude to the horizon and the verticals that evoke the pilings of the pier. The rhythms created by the alternating lines and their varying lengths presages Mondrian’s mature dynamic, depicting an asymmetrical balance as well as the pulse of the ocean waves. Reviewing this work, Theo van Doesburg wrote: “Spiritually, this work is more important than the others. It conveys the impression of peace; the stillness of the soul.” Mondrian had begun to translate what he saw as the underlying ordered patterns of nature into a pure abstract language.
More horizontal and vertical lines appeared, with the occasional curves and diagonals. Later on, of course, Mondrian wouldn’t have anything to do with lines that weren’t straight.
At the same time he began to shift away from neutral and intermediate colors to primary hues, especially avoiding green.
Mondrian began to study drawing at age 14, but, at the insistence of his family, he obtained a degree in education. Instead of looking for a teaching position, however, he took painting lessons and then moved to Amsterdam to register at the Rijksacademie, taking drawing lessons.
Piet Mondrian succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 71. His last work, Victory Boogie Woogie (1942–44), remained unfinished at his death.