Piet Mondrian’s influence on fashion, lifestyle accessories and even household furniture have been well noted in this blog, so it is in our style to continue with another news update about a classic piece of Mondrian couture – the 1966 classic Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress, which was sold at the start of December for a whopping USD $47,000. The iconic dress was the star item at a vintage sale held half a century after YSL’s fashion house was founded. Christie’s textile department director Patricia Frost said the dress was a “magic carpet piece” that took a person right back to 1966. Well, we’d argue any genuine vintage piece did just that, but we certainly acknowledge the special qualities of the Mondrian dress – much like his paintings which continue to inspire minimalist designs around the world.

In continuing our blast-to-the-past theme, a couple of posts back we mentioned an exhibition currently making waves in England. Entitled MONDRIAN || NICHOLSON: IN PARALLEL, it looked at the impact of British artist Ben Nicholson on Mondrian paintings. The link between the two was certainly substantial, but what was the impact of Nicholson’s artistic group, the Seven and Five Society, on Nicholson and thereby Mondrian? It is interesting to note that Nicholson was in fact not a prominent member of the society in its early years. Originally formed in 1919 in London, its aim was to be a conservative bulwark in art against what the artists thought were too many new “isms” upsetting the world order since WWI. The original Seven Painters and Five Sculptors were hence against too much pioneering and experimentation, the epitome of British conservatism, if you will.

This attitude, however, did not last long at all. As with order, there must be disorder, and disorder was in the human form of Nicholson, who always had a sense of iconoclasm in his veins. In 1924, Nicholson, one of the pioneers of British abstract, somehow managed to join the Seven and Five Society. He then quickly recruited other modernists including Dame Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Piper and John Skeaping. The foursome effectively managed to hijack the group, kick out the non-modernists and by 1935 completed the coup by aptly renaming themselves The Seven and Five Abstract Group, cementing the change with the first all abstract exhibition in Britain at the Zwemmer Gallery in London.

This belief in modernism, and abstractionism, can be seen in Nicholson’s dealings with Mondrian and the subsequent effect on Mondrian paintings. The Dutch master’s works from this period display a newfound sense of clarity and sureness, traits that we would carry into his more famous New York phase. It is arguable Mondrian would not have had his level of output in the U.S. were it not for his English foundation. His time with the English geometric abstractionists was crucial in his understandings of lines. As Mondrian himself is often quoted: “It is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.”