What motivated Mondrian towards abstract art was something much more mystical than that of Picasso and Braque; in his words, he aimed “to articulate a mystic conception of cosmic harmony that lay behind the surfaces of reality.” His thinking was based on his belief in Theosophy, a philosophy that gained a following in the United States in the late 1800s. One way his beliefs manifested themselves in his works was through horizontal and vertical axes, which in his works from around 1913, looked like crosses. Such crosses reflected Mondrian’s belief that the universe played host to a constant conflict between opposing forces, whether they were dichotomies of good and evil, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, or dynamic and static.
In 1914, Mondrian went to visit his sick father in Holland and then, due to the outbreak of World War I, couldn’t go back to Paris. He wouldn’t return until 1919. But in Holland, Mondrian methodically endeavored to distill his painting style, and it was during this time that the aforementioned horizontal and vertical axes emerged as the major organizing principles of his increasingly abstract images.