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Concerning the Spiritual in Art

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A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own groundbreaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art. Kandinsky's ideas are presented in two parts. The first part, called "About General Aesthetic," issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms. Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the second part, "About Painting," Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color, and the responsibilities of the artist. An Introduction by the translator, Michael T. H. Sadler, offers additional explanation of Kandinsky's art and theories, while a new Preface by Richard Stratton discusses Kandinsky's career as a whole and the impact of the book. Making the book even more valuable are nine woodcuts by Kandinsky himself that appear at the chapter headings. This English translation of Über das Geistige in der Kunst was a significant contribution to the understanding of nonobjectivism in art. It continues to be a stimulating and necessary reading experience for every artist, art student, and art patron concerned with the direction of 20th-century painting.


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A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own groundbreaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art. Kandinsky's ideas are presented in two parts. The first part, called "About General Aesthetic," issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms. Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the second part, "About Painting," Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color, and the responsibilities of the artist. An Introduction by the translator, Michael T. H. Sadler, offers additional explanation of Kandinsky's art and theories, while a new Preface by Richard Stratton discusses Kandinsky's career as a whole and the impact of the book. Making the book even more valuable are nine woodcuts by Kandinsky himself that appear at the chapter headings. This English translation of Über das Geistige in der Kunst was a significant contribution to the understanding of nonobjectivism in art. It continues to be a stimulating and necessary reading experience for every artist, art student, and art patron concerned with the direction of 20th-century painting.

30 review for Concerning the Spiritual in Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Über das Geistige in der Kunst = Concerning the spiritual in art, Wassily Kandinsky تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و دوم ماه دسامبر سال 1997 میلادی عنوان: معنویت در هنر؛ نویسنده: واسیلی کاندینسکی؛ مترجم: اعظم نورالله خانی؛ تهران، رها، سنگ، 1375؛ در 155 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، اسرار دانش، 1379، شابک: ایکس - 964671952؛ چاپ چهارم 1387؛ شابک: 9789646719521؛ چاپ ششم 1392؛ موضوع: زیبایی شناسی - نقاشی - قرن 20 م ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ridgely

    What saves this book is superlative phrase-turning and humor, intended or otherwise. If you've ever been tempted to bronze your subjective aesthetic and mount it in the museum between philosophy and science, this will be there to remind you how nearly impossible it is to pull off. Kandinsky couldn't do it and neither can you. I mean he sets forth to launch a theory of color analogized to harmonics, but what really comes through is an abiding disdain for yellow, coupled with a love letter to blue What saves this book is superlative phrase-turning and humor, intended or otherwise. If you've ever been tempted to bronze your subjective aesthetic and mount it in the museum between philosophy and science, this will be there to remind you how nearly impossible it is to pull off. Kandinsky couldn't do it and neither can you. I mean he sets forth to launch a theory of color analogized to harmonics, but what really comes through is an abiding disdain for yellow, coupled with a love letter to blue. His statement of artistic intent- you gotta pat him on the back for that idealistic "whoosh"- appears equally specious. It's not that he's lying. It's just that his sleight of hand skills are pretty amateur so the part where he goes "oh so my plan includes this, this, and that, from this day forward" comes across pretty nakedly as a review of past and current work. It reminds me of having to write artist statements. These are a bitch, which is my thoroughly unscientific perspective. They are a bitch because they are more often than not worded as a request for a statement of artistic intent. Last I checked, "I'm going to pick up this brush and paint until I get lost, and paint some more until I come out the other side. Motherfucker." rarely cuts it. Because that doesn't really translate into anything but maximum snark - it's sort of like getting spattered with paint for asking "what are you doing?" The thing is, that statement is absolutely honest, it just doesn't make sense in any language outside the living craft of painting, and so to write a statement, I have to open the door to that compact structure of dream logic, walk outside, and look in the window and describe what I see. This, however, is not the same thing as writing a grocery list, even if it's written on paper covered with vegetables, as a bullet-list. All I can do is write what I see. I can't predict where process will take me, the most I can do is make preparatory drawings as points of departure. Maybe Kandinsky was a precog. His enthusiasm for the path away from representation, for the synthesis of the arts, for advances of the spirit through science likely conflated observable trends in his existing body of work with future intent. And it's not just a little heart-breaking (but funny, always funny) to encounter his One True Quest towards pure expression conveyed upon such muddy waters.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    A wonderful essay both plain and in his writing of a philosophical and very strong reflexive reach. What are works of art, if not a genuine internal cry artists? In that sense they also speak to the audience, in many ways; color or form in painting, for example. It is interesting to compare these about Kandinsky in his works; personally I found that it brought to light a significant his paintings. Here he tries to restore its credentials to painting and the arts in general, reminding that they m A wonderful essay both plain and in his writing of a philosophical and very strong reflexive reach. What are works of art, if not a genuine internal cry artists? In that sense they also speak to the audience, in many ways; color or form in painting, for example. It is interesting to compare these about Kandinsky in his works; personally I found that it brought to light a significant his paintings. Here he tries to restore its credentials to painting and the arts in general, reminding that they must feed the mind of the viewer, and so in that sense they are absolutely not in vain and useless. Magnificent test for an equally beautiful thought.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the petrified ideas of yesterday and of the more distant past. The first time I saw a painting by Kandinsky was in the Guggenheim Museum. Back then, I really didn’t have much appreciation for visual art, least of all abstract paintings. Nevertheless, I remember being intrigued, and finally fascinated by his work. The way he was able to select forms reminiscent of, but not dependent on, real-life objects delighted my eye. Later, I saw a special exhibition Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the petrified ideas of yesterday and of the more distant past. The first time I saw a painting by Kandinsky was in the Guggenheim Museum. Back then, I really didn’t have much appreciation for visual art, least of all abstract paintings. Nevertheless, I remember being intrigued, and finally fascinated by his work. The way he was able to select forms reminiscent of, but not dependent on, real-life objects delighted my eye. Later, I saw a special exhibition of Kandinsky’s work in Madrid. It was divided by place and time, taking me through his Russian, German, and Parisian period, during which he moved from representative art to complete abstraction. I came away from that exhibit with my interest in Kandinsky re-confirmed, and now I can say that he is one of my favorite 20th century artists. Concerning the Spiritual in Art is a short book (more like an extended essay) by Kandinsky, detailing his personal philosophy of art. For Kandinsky, the artist is like a prophet, able to see farther, think more deeply, and feel more keenly than ordinary people. The great artist’s function is to satisfy the cravings of the spirit. In music this is done through rhythm and melody; in painting through color and form. The spiritual function of art has been hampered by what Kandinsky calls materialism—representative art. The accurate reproduction of an object’s appearance is pointless in itself; what matters is its truth to the inner, not the outer, reality. Then follows a long chapter on Kandinsky’s theory of colors—which colors evoke which emotions, and their relationship to one another. As a work of theory, Kandinsky’s book is somewhat disappointing. It is more of a manifesto than a treatise—a simple declaration of Kandinsky’s opinions. As such, it is more interesting as a look into the mind of a great artist than as a piece of art theory. Kandinsky’s discussion of colors and shapes, for example, is silly as analysis, but fascinating as a peek into Kandinsky’s brain. Triangles, circles, squares; reds, yellows, blues—all these were like characters for Kandinsky, with their own personalities and temperaments. It was a pleasure to get to know him better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I hit my artistic peak with my rendering of my uncle’s Conan the Barbarian upper arm tattoo (complete with blood splatter) when I was eight. Truly appreciating art always seemed like the province of finer souls. A secret protected on par with gypsy divination and Shamrock shakes. I guess I always thought art was beyond words. Kandinsky, in his brief book, proves otherwise. Incredibly lucid and articulate, Kandinsky leads the reader to move past an intellectual appreciation of art:The spectator i I hit my artistic peak with my rendering of my uncle’s Conan the Barbarian upper arm tattoo (complete with blood splatter) when I was eight. Truly appreciating art always seemed like the province of finer souls. A secret protected on par with gypsy divination and Shamrock shakes. I guess I always thought art was beyond words. Kandinsky, in his brief book, proves otherwise. Incredibly lucid and articulate, Kandinsky leads the reader to move past an intellectual appreciation of art:The spectator is too ready to look for a meaning in a picture- i.e., some outward connection between its various parts. Our materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or “connoisseur,” who is not content to put himself opposite a picture and let it say its own message. Instead of allowing the inner value of the picture to work, he worries himself in looking for “closeness to nature,” or “temperament,” or handling,” or “tonality,” or “perspective,” or what not. His eye does not probe the outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning. pg. 49. With academic discipline, he explains the effects of color and form on the very non-academic soul. He effectively evokes the spiritual response to color through metaphor. It would be easy for Kandinsky to hide behind vague explanations to increase the sense of profundity in abstract art. But he doesn’t. He maps out the themes of abstraction concisely. All in an effort to go beyond meaning and aesthetic. His goal is to attune the soul to the effect of color. It’s all quite sincere and inspiring.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reza Gharibi

    کاندینسکی یک نقاش و نظریهپرداز هنری روس بود. از آنجا که او نخستین نقاشیهای مدرن اِنتزاعی را خلق کردهاست، یکی از معروفترین و اثرگذارترین هنرمندان سده بیستم بهشمار میآید. (ويكيپديا) كتاب دو بخشه، بخش اول راجع به خود هنر و هنرمند ها صحبت ميكنه، بخش دوم يكم تخصصي وارد هنر نقاشي ميشه. بخش اول جذابيتش برام بيشتر بود مخصوصا سر فصل "جنش سه ضلعي" رو خيلي دوس داشتم. كسايي كه به نقاشي علاقه مندن بخونن كتاب خوبيه کاندینسکی یک نقاش و نظریه‌پرداز هنری روس بود. از آن‌جا که او نخستین نقاشی‌های مدرن اِنتزاعی را خلق کرده‌است، یکی از معروفترین و اثرگذارترین هنرمندان سده بیستم به‌شمار می‌آید. (ويكيپديا) كتاب دو بخشه، بخش اول راجع به خود هنر و هنرمند ها صحبت ميكنه، بخش دوم يكم تخصصي وارد هنر نقاشي ميشه. بخش اول جذابيتش برام بيشتر بود مخصوصا سر فصل "جنش سه ضلعي" رو خيلي دوس داشتم. كسايي كه به نقاشي علاقه مندن بخونن كتاب خوبيه

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    This was worth reading. Some of the language was a little flowery so I will probably read it again at some point. It makes some interesting points. I wish the art was in color and not black and white since he talks so much about the significance of color especially red. It was a fast read and interesting so it was worth my time to read this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Narjes Dorzade

    . از زیباترین کتاب ها در مورد هنر . تمام این صفحات سرشار از جذبه در هنری انسانی ست . . ممنونم آقای " واسیلی کاندینسکی " و البته مترجم درست ؛ اعظم نوراله خانی

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hesam Bagheri

    به طور خلاصه، تاثیر نیاز درونی و توسعه هنر، جلوه بیانی همواره در حال پیشرفت جاودانگی و ذهنیت بر حسب دوره های زمانی و عینیت است چون ذهنیت همواره در حال تبادل بیان عینی امروز با بیان عینی آینده است، هرگونه گسترش بیشتر آزادی در استفاده از فرم بیرونی همانند فضیلی بزرگ مورد استقبال قرار می گیرد. در حال حاضر می توانیم بگوییم هنرمند تنها مادامی که در تماس با طبیعت باقی بماند می تواند از هر فرمی که بخواهد استفاده کند. ولی این محدودیت، مانند همه پیشینیانش، کاملا موقتی است. از نقطه نظر نیاز درونی نباید هیچ به طور خلاصه، تاثیر نیاز درونی و توسعه هنر، جلوه بیانی همواره در حال پیشرفت جاودانگی و ذهنیت بر حسب دوره های زمانی و عینیت است چون ذهنیت همواره در حال تبادل بیان عینی امروز با بیان عینی آینده است، هرگونه گسترش بیشتر آزادی در استفاده از فرم بیرونی همانند فضیلی بزرگ مورد استقبال قرار می گیرد. در حال حاضر می توانیم بگوییم هنرمند تنها مادامی که در تماس با طبیعت باقی بماند می تواند از هر فرمی که بخواهد استفاده کند. ولی این محدودیت، مانند همه پیشینیانش، کاملا موقتی است. از نقطه نظر نیاز درونی نباید هیچ محدودیتی وجود داشته باشد. هنرمند از هر فرمی که بیان اقتضا کند، می تواند بهره گیرد، زیرا محرک درونی وی باید بیان ظاهری مناسب را بیابد بنابراین می بینیم که جستجوی آگاهانه، به دنبال شخصیت و "سبک" نه تنها غیرممکن بلکه نسبتا بی اهمیت نیز می باشد. رابطه نزدیک هنر در سراسر دوران ها نه رابطه ای در فرم ظاهری بلکه در معنای درونی است. و بنابراین صحبت از مکاتب، سیر "پیشرفت"، "اصول هنر" و غیره مبتنی بر درکی غلط است و تنها به اغتشاش منجر می گردد یکی از قسمت های "خیلی خوب" از متن کتاب و در ضمن راهکارها و پیشنهاد های جالبی برای هنرمند مطرح میکنه، که در مقابل تئوری های آکادمیک قرار میگیره

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ellis

    Picked this short treatise up used for cheap. Kandinsky has a lot of very interesting ideas about the relation of art and music and poetry, with some discussion of social status/interpersonal relationships (just a dash). He is a modernist through and through. The introduction is enough to get you excited to read it and I just love his description about what art is and ought to be. Dense and could be a better translation, I think. Takes some concentration to understand it all and follow the metap Picked this short treatise up used for cheap. Kandinsky has a lot of very interesting ideas about the relation of art and music and poetry, with some discussion of social status/interpersonal relationships (just a dash). He is a modernist through and through. The introduction is enough to get you excited to read it and I just love his description about what art is and ought to be. Dense and could be a better translation, I think. Takes some concentration to understand it all and follow the metaphors he carries through several chapters, but I really did enjoy it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I'm finally getting around to reading Wassily Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In it, the artist explains his plans for the ascent of spiritually fulfilling and expressive art that surpasses mere replication of natural form. This is not to say that Kandinsky is in favor of pure abstraction. He faults cubism as too intellectual and spiritually lacking, as opposed to inspired abstractions. I most enjoyed his breakdown of color theory, setting antitheses of white and black (obvi), yellow I'm finally getting around to reading Wassily Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In it, the artist explains his plans for the ascent of spiritually fulfilling and expressive art that surpasses mere replication of natural form. This is not to say that Kandinsky is in favor of pure abstraction. He faults cubism as too intellectual and spiritually lacking, as opposed to inspired abstractions. I most enjoyed his breakdown of color theory, setting antitheses of white and black (obvi), yellow and blue, orange and purple, and green and red. There are even diagrams. As someone who grew up with the color wheel (also diagramed in the book), it was interesting that he deviated from the complementary/contrasting colors that are directly across from each other on the wheel, the creating an antithesis of yellow and blue, two primary colors. That's not to say that he doesn't also go into simple composition and form versus complex. And of course, there are the comparisons to music that are to be expected of a painter, and probable synesthete, who gave his works titles like "Composition" and "Improvisation" and "Symphony". In any case, he makes a clear, personal case against the popular "art pour l'art", not because he has an especial dislike of it, but because he imagines a greater, more satisfying art to come. This book isn't quite as satisfying as one of Kandinsky's paintings, but I did enjoy it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    возможно, тут стоит сказать book, it's not you, it's me - я очень отвыкла от таких текстов за годы и годы бизнес-литературы и поп-фикшена. наверное. в последний раз я сталкивалась с такой манерой изложения в литературоведении (а значит, в универе). видно, что текст несовременный, и дело даже не в отсылках к скрябину или дебюсси как авангардистам, а еще и, например, в том, что синестезия принимается за особую духовность - явно из-за того, что не было тогда возможности обратиться к нейрофизиологии возможно, тут стоит сказать book, it's not you, it's me - я очень отвыкла от таких текстов за годы и годы бизнес-литературы и поп-фикшена. наверное. в последний раз я сталкивалась с такой манерой изложения в литературоведении (а значит, в универе). видно, что текст несовременный, и дело даже не в отсылках к скрябину или дебюсси как авангардистам, а еще и, например, в том, что синестезия принимается за особую духовность - явно из-за того, что не было тогда возможности обратиться к нейрофизиологии. в общем, очень всё невыразимо, густо напичкано метафорами и с частым употреблением слова "душа" не скажу, что было совсем бесполезно - все-таки добавился, наверное, еще один угол, под которым можно смотреть на абстрактную живопись

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beka Sukhitashvili

    ძალიან საინტერესო ნაშრომია, შთაბეჭდილებებით სავსე ვარ. "ღია ლურჯი ფლეიტას ჰგავს, მუქი ჩელოს, კიდევ უფრო მუქი კონტრაბასის არაჩვეულებრივ ჟღერას; უფრო ღრმა, საზეიმო ფორმაში ლურჯის ჟღერადობა ორღანისას შეიძლება შევადაროთ". "ხელოვნებაში თეორია არასდროს უსწრებს პრაქტიკას, არამედ პირიქით". "არანაირი "უნდა" არ არსებობს ხელოვნებაში, რომელიც მუდამ თავისუფალია. ხელოვნება გაურბის "უნდას"-ს, როგორც დღე გაურბის ღამეს". მოკლედ, ესეც წიგნის ჩემი მიმოხილვა: http://popularpopcorn.blogspot.com/20...

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    A professional artist/teacher friend of mine gave me a copy of Kandinsky's book at a recent workshop she was leading. Consider the long period of the 20th Century during which Kandinsky practiced what he preached as a "Spiritual Revolution" in art. Spiritual Revolution was a popular theme throughout the century. A Baha'i pamphlet with that title was published in the 1970's. Being an activist artist in that revolution now is as important as ever.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Franklin

    kandinsky's respondeo ut the world of art, in his time, to the past, and for the future of art is widely considered one of the greatest documents on art by an artist. sure, i'll accept that. however, i believe this is more of an assault on the condition of the human spirit than a treatise on the state of art. kandinsky reiterates, many times, his disgust for the broad acceptance of and reverence towards "stagnate art". as an artist himself, he is quite aware of the vast differences between what t kandinsky's respondeo ut the world of art, in his time, to the past, and for the future of art is widely considered one of the greatest documents on art by an artist. sure, i'll accept that. however, i believe this is more of an assault on the condition of the human spirit than a treatise on the state of art. kandinsky reiterates, many times, his disgust for the broad acceptance of and reverence towards "stagnate art". as an artist himself, he is quite aware of the vast differences between what the critics and buyers are going in for, and what the artists are doing. he lays out, quite brutally, his own foundation of the future of art. making claims that, the future will hold an art that is un-seeable to the eye, but glaring to the soul. it will have to consist then, of images from within, not without the human field of perception. he is calling for the abandonment of the recognizable, often cliche materialism that academic art of his time heralded as high. there is nothing lower than a bland reproduction of a bland person in a bland setting. according to kandinsky. this was 191o, and was thus the manual for abstraction that would spawn an art movement that has shaken everything the art world made for thousands of years before it, to it's very core. kandinsky battles the dominant paradigm of art theory that art should reflect nature, thereby being a discourse with our natural life and thus the voice of divinity. he argues that only true art, free from external form, can be divined and relate to the world, in fact more than that, help the world to progress into a truly spiritual world. he sites many contemporary poets, painters and philosophers, including mme. blavastky philosophy, though she merely developed an idea based upon , credited by hitler as the mother of the aryanhindu teachings she picked while in india. kandisnky is clearly a very well educated and passionate man, albeit angry as all hell. he seems to, at times, get lost in his own poetic symbolism and dive off of cliffs that are too hard to climb back to. (how was that for poetic irony) he has a chapter called the movement of the triangle, in which he forms a triangle based upon levels of spiritual growth. what is it with metaphysical writers that makes them use obscure geometric charts to illustrate an idea. see ken wilbur if you are not sure what i mean. the chapter wraps up nicely and he makes some very clear points, but the beginning is very slow going and clogged with imagery too complex for his simple implication. he seems to focus on the art that is not spiritual, trying to show by absence the art that is. he sites many styles and trends in art at the time that seem to portray stillborn representations of human life. art, in his and my eye, is to relate the human condition to the future generations that they may understand where we lived. this book is just shy of one hundred years old, and still it is valid in modern conversation. where wassily had impressionists, we have pop, where he had vase on table with fruit, we have a fucking dead tiger shark in formaldehyde. does the art of today really reflect our universal subconscious. will a fifty million dollar, diamond encrusted skull save the soul of anyone tomorrow, or today for that matter, and still this is what we know as our contemporaries. sure we have our jenny savilles,who is a mind staggering painter, and let us not overlook them, god forbid we let another van gogh slip away. but the damien hirsts are killing me. now, just today i hear about marla olmstead, the four year old abstract expressionist prodigy, whose work is compared to pollock, and dekooning. marla is all the buzz right now. a four year old whose father is paints, has the spotlight as genius of painting. is this art? is it commodity? nit sch? what do i know. i do know some of the stuff of hers is very cool, and most likely, if seen by unwitting eyes, would be hailed as great work by one who truly suffered and now understands life with color. not sure what i think about that, just an interesting topic right now. what would wassily say? i am sure a part of him would see the beauty and innocence and then the spiritual side of her pictures. but the purist in him would denounce her "work" as simply the play thing of a child, which it is. all in all, the book really is refreshing in that is a statement of sincerity about art. it is rare that we read a book about art theory that as actually written by an artist. most are like parenting books written by childless doctors. this, however is the real deal. kandinsky is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, also one of the most prolific writers on art. the book is not finely tuned, but it's rawness is it's energy. note kandisnky's influence on contemporaries such as chuck close, who is famed for super-realism, or photo-realism, which completely disembarks from the course set by kandinsky himself. oh the ways we dig our graves and how we praise the soil!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Þróndr

    While I’m not a fan of Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, I find his theoretical writings all the more interesting, and it is perhaps these that are his major contribution. In the first part of the book he writes about the historical movement of art as a pyramid, where the apex represent the forerunners – those who will be understood and accepted only at at a later time: “The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle divided horizontally into unequal pa While I’m not a fan of Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, I find his theoretical writings all the more interesting, and it is perhaps these that are his major contribution. In the first part of the book he writes about the historical movement of art as a pyramid, where the apex represent the forerunners – those who will be understood and accepted only at at a later time: “The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle divided horizontally into unequal parts with the narrowest segment uppermost. The lower the segment the greater it is in breadth, depth, and area. The whole triangle is moving slowly, almost invisibly forwards and upwards. Where the apex was today the second segment is tomorrow; what today can be understood only by the apex and to the rest of the triangle is an incomprehensible gibberish, forms tomorrow the true thought and feeling of the second segment. At the apex of the top segment stands often one man, and only one. His joyful vision cloaks a vast sorrow. Even those who are nearest to him in sympathy do not understand him. Angrily they abuse him as charlatan or madman. So in his lifetime stood Beethoven, solitary and insulted.” (pp. 30-1) As can be understood, Kandinsky’s theories refer explicitly to modern painting. What I found interesting is his absolute refusal of art for art’s sake and the parallels he draws to music – e.g. the dimension added with Wagner’s use of the leitmotif. Kandinsky appear to be closer to a composer and theorist like Schönberg (whom I’m also not crazy about), and the keyword here is artistic freedom. However, there’s also his statement that development in painting also draws on those in science (where, as in art, the forerunners may at times be labelled madmen.) On the other hand, Kandinsky is looking back towards so-called primitive art, and he is loath to include e.g. Indian art in that term. In this context Kandinsky ironically puts a term like “savage” in quotation marks. Here’s also where Mme. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society comes in - along with what Kandinsky calls “inner knowledge.” Another term that typifies his approach is “inner necessity” – by which he doesn’t mean mere psychological necessity, it should rather be understood in a mystical sense. At first glimpse, Kandinsky’s painting may not appear to come close to the “automatic painting” of e.g. Hilma af Klimt, but it’s there (as it also can be found in Pollock and Kline for that matter.) However, Kandinsky appear to be too caught up in his own theoretical framework to move away from merely illustrating it – as I see it anyway – and his art could as easily be termed conceptual as much as mystical and/or abstract. Interestingly, in this book he doesn’t seem inclined to move as far into abstraction as he in fact does in his art. (“Must we then abandon utterly all material objects and paint solely in abstractions? The problem of harmonizing the appeal of the material and the non-material shows us the answer to this question. As every word spoken rouses an inner vibration, so likewise does every object represented. To deprive oneself of this possibility is to limit one's powers of expression. That is at any rate the case at present.” (pp. 71-2) ... “If we begin at once to break the bonds which bind us to nature, and devote ourselves purely to combination of pure colour and abstract form, we shall produce works which are mere decoration, which are suited to neckties or carpets.” p. (98) The second part of the book deals with theories of colour and form, much of it interesting (and certainly useful for a painter, figurative as well as abstract), All in all this book is a mixture of the curious and the useful, and I suppose it’s fair to say that it is obligatory reading for understanding the developments in art in the 20th century. I didn't quite know what to expect from this book, but I got more out of it than I had thought I would. I’ll likely pick up Kandinsky’s 1926 essay Point and Line to Plane as well. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heba TariQ

    ان يفيض النور فى الظلام الذى يغرق قلوب البشر , هذه هى مسئولية الفنان و واجبه #شومان

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    In some ways I enjoyed the two rather lengthy introductions to the book (not by Kandinsky himself) -- which put his career and ideas in a historical perspective -- more than the book itself. I read the following review from an Amazon reader. I agree with most of it, and he brings out some of the more important points Kandinsky offers in his book. I especially like this insight from the reviewer: "His spirituality is not an incarnational one, where the Spirit interpenetrates and quickens matter, In some ways I enjoyed the two rather lengthy introductions to the book (not by Kandinsky himself) -- which put his career and ideas in a historical perspective -- more than the book itself. I read the following review from an Amazon reader. I agree with most of it, and he brings out some of the more important points Kandinsky offers in his book. I especially like this insight from the reviewer: "His spirituality is not an incarnational one, where the Spirit interpenetrates and quickens matter, but a dualistic one, where they can be separated or "abstracted". His purpose is laudable. It is to reveal the spiritual and make it visible anew "towards the close of our already dying epoch" (p. 47). But the problem is that he seeks to do this by abstraction, separation." Here is the full review (w/ a few parts omitted): Kandinsky, who was one of the founders of modern art, sets out to confront the crass materialism of his era and the trite art that it was producing. He understands "spirituality" as being the interiority of things, their inner source of meaning and life. He attacks artistic narcissism, saying, "This neglect of inner meanings, which is the life of colours, this vain squandering of artistic power is called 'art for art's sake'." (p. 3). Consistent with his Russian Orthodox background, Kandinsky says, "We are seeking today for the road which is to lead us away from the outer to the inner basis. The spirit, like the body, can be strengthened and developed by frequent exercise. Just as the body, if neglected, grows weaker and finally impotent, so the spirit perishes if untended. And for this reason it is necessary for the artist to know the starting point for the exercise of his spirit. The starting point is the study of colour and its effects on men." (pp. 35-6). And I love his honesty in a footnote where he says, of his colour schema, "These statements have no scientific basis, but are founded purely on spiritual experience." (p. 37). If only we saw more awareness in the world of the importance of not confusing categories of thought between scientific evidence and artistic perception. To Kandinsky, Art's function is to reveal the spiritual. It "must learn from music that every harmony and every discord which springs from the inner spirit is beautiful, but that it is essential that they spring from the inner spirit and from that alone." (p. 51). This has a social function, for "each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated". (p. 1) As such, "Painting is an art, and art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul." (p. 54). Ultimately, "If the artist be priest of beauty", then she has "a triple responsibility to the non-artist: (1) He must repay the talent which he has; (2) his deeds, feelings, and thoughts, as those of every man, create a spiritual atmosphere which is either pure or poisonous. (3) These deeds and thoughts are materials for his creations, which themselves exercise influence on the spiritual atmosphere. The artist is not only as king, as Peladan says, because he has great power, but also because he has great duties." (pp. 54-55). And the bottom line? "That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul." He concludes: "this property of the soul is the oil which facilitates the slow, scarcely visible but irresistable movement of [the human condition] onwards and upwards." As will be apparent, this sense of spiritual progress may be modern thinking, but it is decidedly not postmodern. How strange, then, that Kandkindy is seen as a progenitor of "modern" art and its seamless, to my eye, drift into the incohate abstractions of postmodernity. It is here that my criticism of Kandinsky takes effect. Kandinsky's mindset is, at the same time, premodern in its perception of the spiritual essence, but postmodern deconstructive in its artistic articulation. His spirituality is not an incarnational one, where the Spirit interpenetrates and quickens matter, but a dualistic one, where they can be separated or "abstracted". His purpose is laudable. It is to reveal the spiritual and make it visible anew "towards the close of our already dying epoch" (p. 47). But the problem is that he seeks to do this by abstraction, separation. This takes us into a world that predicates the transcendent, but implicitly denigrates the immanent. Thus, "The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct its appeal. In any composition the material side may be more or less omitted in proportion as the forms used are more or less material, and for them substituted pure abstractions, or largely dematerialised objects. The more an artist uses these abstracted forms, the deeper and more confidently will he advance into the kingdom of the abstract." (p.32). And for Kandinsky such abstraction becomes a crusading obsession: "Taking the work of Henri Rousseau as a starting point, I go on to prove that the new naturalism will not only be equivalent to but even identical with abstraction." (p. 52). In his wonderful Introduction to the text, Michael Sadler suggests that this extreme abandonment of representation of the real world is why, "The question most generally asked about Kandinsky's art is: 'What is he trying to do?'" Saddler suggests, "this book will do something towards answering the question. But it will not do everything." (p. xviii). In contrast, he says, Cezanne "saw in a tree, a heap of apples, a human face, a group of bathing men or women, something more abiding than either photography or impressionist painting could present. He painted the 'treeness' of the tree.... But in everything he did he showed the architectural mind of the true Frenchman. His landscape studies were based on a profound sense of the structure of rocks and hills, and being structural, his art depends on reality.... The material of which his art was composed was drawn from the huge stores of actual nature." (p.xvii). Where does all this leave us today, in 2010, 99 years after first publication of Kandinsky's little book in German? When I look at the nihilism of Britart, or the sheer inability to draw and express beauty in what seems to be coming out of some of our contemporary art schools (the students tell me they are discouraged by their tutors from trying to express beauty!), then it is clear that abstraction has gone too far. Like postmodern deconstruction generally, it is all very well to deconstruct, but what about the grace of reconstruction? Kandinsky's aim to reveal the spiritual was laudable. That is the true meaning of the word "apocalypse" - to unveil and reveal that which has been hidden. But abstraction on its own and as the highest ideal is like pulling up a plant to see how the roots are growing. It causes disincarnation, which is another word for death, and so both the material and the spiritual wither. The art that we need for these our troubled times needs to be an apocalyptic art of incarnation. It needs to reveal the spiritual, but not separate it off from the material world. This will be a new art of the sacred. And here is where we need a debate to start, and artistic action around that debate. A resource that I would suggest is a book by the theologian Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination - especially the Introduction on pp. 3 - 10. Wink argues that we must reject the dualistic idea of Heaven being separate from Earth. We need what he calls an "integral worldview", what is also sometimes called an incarnational spirituality. Here Heaven and Earth are interfused in a single reality (Christians can read Luke 17:20-21; Hindus the Bhagavad Gita; Taoists the Tao te Ching, etc.). And we need art, in the full artistic and theological senses of these words, to "magnify" and "illuminate" what incarnational spirituality looks like. To open the mind and the heart, and give fresh hope to the world. Sadler's remarks on Cezanne are a pointer in this direction. Kandinsky's little book provides a crucial intellectual stepping stone. We have lived through a century of dying and dead "modern" art. We cannot go on like that. It is time to call back the soul.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yana Milenkova

    Kandinsky is not only a painter, but also an accomplished and logical writer. He obviously was influenced by German idealistic philosophy, adhered to the position of antipositivism. It’s interesting to observe how problems of religion and occultism were at the center of his attention and reflected on his theory of art.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This is a fantastic book. Kandinsky's ideas on art and its ultimate goal are nothing short of inspirational. No matter what area of art you enjoy, whether it be music, painting or even writing; this book is completely relevant. He is an artist who is completely "in tune" with all aspects of creativity. His way of explaining, though quite poetic and grandoise at times, is very clear to read and understand. He's not just a great painter, but a captivating writer who really has a way with words. Th This is a fantastic book. Kandinsky's ideas on art and its ultimate goal are nothing short of inspirational. No matter what area of art you enjoy, whether it be music, painting or even writing; this book is completely relevant. He is an artist who is completely "in tune" with all aspects of creativity. His way of explaining, though quite poetic and grandoise at times, is very clear to read and understand. He's not just a great painter, but a captivating writer who really has a way with words. The result is a book that is beautiful to read from start to finish. The book also contains large sections on the authors ideas of colour and form. His explanation of colour in terms of movement and sound is very interesting in an off-beat sort of way. Small diagrams showing how colours relate to one another are great too. This book really changed how I read, listen, and see what surrounds me. Thoroughly recommended!

  21. 5 out of 5

    P. Timothy

    I read this in anticipation of possibly leading a class on Spirituality and Art...and as a primer of sorts on the early thoughts about the connection between Spirituality and the Arts, especially connected with Modern art into abstraction. Some of his thoughts are brilliian and prescient; some really are parallel to Dewey, James and the like philosophers, along with Dr. Albert Barnes, and some of it comes off as purely bunkish guesses...but that is the issue with ground-breaking writing and thou I read this in anticipation of possibly leading a class on Spirituality and Art...and as a primer of sorts on the early thoughts about the connection between Spirituality and the Arts, especially connected with Modern art into abstraction. Some of his thoughts are brilliian and prescient; some really are parallel to Dewey, James and the like philosophers, along with Dr. Albert Barnes, and some of it comes off as purely bunkish guesses...but that is the issue with ground-breaking writing and thought, and particularly about something as numinous and difficult as early abstraction: it ends up breaking not only fresh ground, but hoeing rows completely in the wrong direction. Overall, it is very good; very helpful and prescient by far. Many comments he let open for "future art" really point directly to sound art, installation art, etc. which is amazing. The art world's Verne!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    I was not aware of the intrinsic relation between form and color. Plus, I found completely stimulating (just by reading) his description of contrasting colors, their antagonisms and synthesis. Apparently while yellow warmly moves, blue is coldly inert, the former expressing a bodily experience, the latter spiritual. An the "theory" goes on. I would never thought of green as stationary, yet he made me wonder... I won't get into his argument about the artist as king. I will just retain the "languag I was not aware of the intrinsic relation between form and color. Plus, I found completely stimulating (just by reading) his description of contrasting colors, their antagonisms and synthesis. Apparently while yellow warmly moves, blue is coldly inert, the former expressing a bodily experience, the latter spiritual. An the "theory" goes on. I would never thought of green as stationary, yet he made me wonder... I won't get into his argument about the artist as king. I will just retain the "language of form and color."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Flor

    Es una belleza la forma en que Kandinsky nos describe dos elementos básicos del arte como lo son el color y la forma. La facilidad que tiene para definir los colores y las emociones que producen en el espectador es algo de no creer. Un libro bastante fácil de leer, y cortito que deja las cosas claras. Hermoso desde donde se lo vea, y no hace falta tener mucho conocimiento del arte para disfrutarlo. Muy recomendable.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    A powerful, lucid manifesto by Kandinsky, the famous Russian Expressionist, calling for the artist to proceed inward to cultivate the abstract expressions of the inner spirit and away from material representation. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that in addition to his obvious mastery as a painter, Kandinsky was also an accomplished and logical writer. "The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning"

  25. 5 out of 5

    C. Vau

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Memorable quote: «The artist is not born to a life of pleasure. He must live idle; he has an art to perform, and one which often proves a cross to be borne. He must realize that his every deed, feeling, and thought are raw but sure material from which his work is to arise, that he is free in art but not in life.»

  26. 5 out of 5

    Apryl Anderson

    Kandinsky's 'Movement of the Triangle' was precisely the visual I needed to understand this process of the collective conscience going forward, yet circling eternal revelations. Also, I agree with his discussion of the related arts, and I'm surprised that he didn't mention the 'Musica universalis'. As for the color theory, I need to spend some time with that...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I absolutely LOVE art. I like it a bit challenging not just the normal wildly popular stuff, BUT I just can't read about it. I try, but most of the writing seems overly analytical, not visual or emotional like the subject. I have tried to read this book...I have actually read this book, but it doesn't seem to sink in... I guess I will just keep loving art and trying to read about it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo

    No es un mal libro, tiene puntos de vista bastante interesantes y relevantes incluso en nuestros tiempos. Le pongo 3 estrellas porque la edición no me pareció la mejor. Aunque principalmente la utilicé con fines informativos y no creo que la vaya a referenciar.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kaye

    I appreciate that this is a brilliant book, and thus gave it 4 stars...based on the parts of it I understood. I'll probably go back and read portions from time to time in order to try to understand it more completely.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sian

    Craaaaazy shit, but also totally brilliant. Kandinsky had this condition called synesthesia where he could like, feel and hear colors and all his senses were mixed up. While it is a serious medical condition, it makes for some incredible writing.

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