WHETHER they know it or not, the architect, the layout artist, the sign painter, and even the counter girl who wraps a candy box asymmetrically with a gay ribbon all owe a debt to a lone Dutchman named Piet Mondrian. Cubist Mondrian's crisp, rectilinear paintings, once scoffed at as being mere linoleum patterns, have been one of the most pervasive influences in 20th century design. With their novelty absorbed, his paintings are now being viewed in their own right, establishing Mondrian as one of art's great space organizers.

After World War I a whole...

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