Mondrian’s influence on Pop Culture and Fashion 

Tate Modern’s Spring exhibition which opens today explores why Piet Mondrian (b. Netherlands, 1872-1944) was one of the most imaginative artists of the 20th century including the development of iconic grid compositions for which he is best known.

For over a century, Dutch painter Piet Mondrian has left an indelible mark on art, music, architecture, and fashion. His pioneering work in the realm of abstract art has influenced generations of artists, inspiring a wide range of cultural movements and trends. In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent paid tribute to Mondrian by designing cocktail dresses that evoked the painter’s abstract canvases.

Mondrian dress Monica Costa wearing Kate Spade dress

Mondrian dress by Kate Spade – Monica Costa at Tate Modern‘s exhibition ‘Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms Of Life‘, 20 April – 3 September 2023 – ‘I found this dress, new with tags, on ebay in 2016. I paid £35 for it but now it is probably worth £500. There aren’t many around in good condition. I love wearing it! The first time I wore it, it was at a Swinging Sixties New Year’s party 2016-2017 at the Olympic Cinema in Barnes. My pairing with white boots gives it a bit of Austen Powers’ look and feel.’

Their simple cuts, geometrical lines, and bold colors gave the designer’s collection a modern feel and proved to be incredibly successful. From YSL’s world-famous “Mondrian” dress to Kate Spade’s contemporary take on the classic dress, to the iconic album covers of Joy Division and the graphic designs of Nike, Mondrian’s influence can be seen everywhere.

mondrian inspired album

Kate Spade Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Kate Spade Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear Collection


















Mondrian inspired nike

Born in 1872 in Amersfoort, a small town in the Netherlands, Piet Mondrian was trained as a painter in Amsterdam at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts (1892-5) and Paris. He began his career as a traditional Dutch landscape and still-life painter, but soon became interested in the possibilities of abstract art.

Mondrian became a member of the Theosophical Society in 1909, and the spiritual influence of the movement directly influenced his representational style. Mondrian’s experiments in Cubism while living in Paris between 1912-4 led him on the path to abstraction. Rather than alluding to three-dimensional illusionistic depth like the Cubists, he wished to accentuate the flat surface of the painting. 

Back in Holland in 1917, Mondrian co-founded De Stijl (The Style), a movement which embraced basic visual elements such as geometric forms and primary colours. This group was dedicated to creating a new, modern art that would break with the past and reflect the dynamic, industrial society of the 20th century.

One of Mondrian’s most famous works is his “Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow,” which he painted in 1930.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with red, black, yellow, blue and gray 1921. Kunstmuseum Den Haag.jpg

Composition red, black, yellow, blue in grey / Piet Mondriaan ( 1921 – )

This work is a prime example of his style, which he called neoplasticism. This style was characterised by a strict use of geometry and primary colors, with no suggestion of naturalistic forms. Mondrian believed that this style would express the universal harmony of the cosmos, and he devoted his life to exploring its possibilities. 

Returning to Paris after the First World War, he began making the abstract compositions of rectangles, black lines, white and primary colours, for which he became best known. After a few years in London, Mondrian emigrated to New York in 1940, where he began experimenting with coloured lines. Mondrian died on 1 February 1944 in New York.

Mondrian’s influence on pop culture began in the 1960s, when his work became associated with the emerging pop art movement. Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were drawn to Mondrian’s bold use of color and his iconic grid patterns. They incorporated these elements into their own work, creating a new style that was both playful and sophisticated.

In the realm of music, Mondrian’s influence can be seen in the album covers of Joy Division, a post-punk band from Manchester, England. The band’s album covers featured stark black-and-white images of Mondrian-like grids and blocks, reflecting the band’s own minimalist style. The band’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, was also a fan of Mondrian’s work and often wore a shirt emblazoned with one of the artist’s compositions.

Mondrian’s influence on architecture can be seen in the work of modernist architects like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. These architects shared Mondrian’s vision of a new, modern world, and they used his ideas of geometry and color to create innovative new buildings.

mondrian inspired Barcelona Pavilion

Mondrian inspired Barcelona Pavilion

One example is the Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1929. This building features a simple, elegant design that is reminiscent of Mondrian’s compositions.

Mondrian’s influence on fashion is perhaps best known through the iconic “Mondrian” dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965.

Mondrian dress 1965 by

This dress features a bold, graphic design that is clearly inspired by Mondrian’s neoplastic style. Up until the 1960s, skirts and dresses fell below the knee. After the miniskirt was introduced by Mary Quant in England in 1962 and Courrèges in France in 1965, dresses and skirts were shortened by at least five centimeters. This period coincided with the women’s liberation movement, when women liked wearing loose-fitting dresses that placed less constraints on the body. YSL’s Mondrian dress became an instant sensation and has been widely imitated ever since. Kate Spade’s version of the Mondrian dress is just one example of how this design has been adapted and reinterpreted over the years.

Piet Mondrian’s influence on pop culture has been immense and lasting. His pioneering work in abstract art has inspired countless artists, musicians, architects, and fashion designers, and his ideas continue to shape the way we see and experience the world around us. Whether it’s the bold graphic design of a Nike sneaker or the elegant simplicity of a modernist building, Mondrian’s legacy is all around us. And as we continue to look to the future, it’s clear that his influence will remain a vital part of our cultural landscape.

Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms Of Life, Tate Modern, 20 April – 3 September 2023


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