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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

    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.

  2. 4 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 exhibitio 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Quiver

    To me, Kandinsky is the Kandinsky from the Bauhaus period, when his paintings were dominated by abstract compositions comprising lines, circles, triangles, and bold colours. Though Concerning the Spiritual in Art was written some ten years prior, the book may as well be about the explorations in artworks such as these. Part I of the book has one memorable idea: Kandinsky depicts the life of the spirit as a triangle, forever moving gently upwards, or rather, forever moved upwards by artists—th To me, Kandinsky is the Kandinsky from the Bauhaus period, when his paintings were dominated by abstract compositions comprising lines, circles, triangles, and bold colours. Though Concerning the Spiritual in Art was written some ten years prior, the book may as well be about the explorations in artworks such as these. Part I of the book has one memorable idea: Kandinsky depicts the life of the spirit as a triangle, forever moving gently upwards, or rather, forever moved upwards by artists—the misunderstood souls—who forge the way for the rest of us. 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 great it is in breath, 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. …In every segment of the triangle are artists. Each one of them who can see beyond the limits of his segment is a prophet to those about him, and helps the advance of the obstinate whole. But those who are blind, or those who retard the movement of the triangle for baser reasons, are fully understood by their fellows and acclaimed for their genius. … Every segment hungers consciously or, much more often, unconsciously for their corresponding spiritual food. Part II of the book takes up the principles of painting; specifically, the psychic effect of forms and colours. The former can stand on their own, but the latter are meaningless without boundaries and contrasting shades. To Kandinsky two main division of colour are immediate: into yellow (pulsating, expanding) and blue (cool, withdrawing); and into white (peace pregnant with possibility) and black (profound, deathly pause). Other colours are considered too, and described with pithy statements. Just as orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow, so violet is red withdrawn from humanity by blue. Much of the book is spent on drawing parallels between music and colour-form: Kandinsky wishes to compose on a painting. Shades of colour, like those of sound, are of a much finger texture and awake in the soul emotions too fine to be expressed in words. The parallels were thought-provoking. I could not ask more of book on colour theory: for we can only forge a path ahead by illuminating the past, learning from it, then building upon it. Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the petrified ideas of yesterday and of the more distant past.

  5. 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vlad Kovsky

    I am going to don my T-shirt with a print of Kandinsky's Upward and write a short review for his essay. I am going to don my T-shirt with a print of Kandinsky's Upward and write a short review for his essay.

  7. 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.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 5 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. 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    A very important note that people who read this book should remember is that most of the theories that Kandinsky explores and explains are "statements that have no scientific basis, but are founded purely on spiritual experience." (taken out from the book itself) If we read Kandinsky's work with these words in mind, it is much easier to understand his arguments and hypotheses. Kandinsky has a lot of interesting ideas regarding form and color and mostly the relationship between music and painting. A very important note that people who read this book should remember is that most of the theories that Kandinsky explores and explains are "statements that have no scientific basis, but are founded purely on spiritual experience." (taken out from the book itself) If we read Kandinsky's work with these words in mind, it is much easier to understand his arguments and hypotheses. Kandinsky has a lot of interesting ideas regarding form and color and mostly the relationship between music and painting. It is the second book I read that has whole paragraphs about the comparison between these two arts, (First one being Arnheim's Art and Visual Perception) which definitely proves Kandinsky's point that in order to understand painting fully and to be immersed in it, you need knowledge of other arts, complementary ones (like music and dance). 3/5 because he absolutely uses words and sentence structures as in to confuse the reader sometimes or to just weed out the readers that won't look over his way of writing. It looks rather snobbish. However, I did find a lot of ideas that resonated with me. Loved the second chapter "About Painting" and mostly the parts about "the psychological working of color" and "the language of form and color". Also, I'm very happy I got to read a version of the book with endnotes and from now on I will be certainly using "feeling very violet as an expression". :) "Among artists one often hears the question, "How are you?" answered gloomily by the words "Feeling very violet." "When it rises towards white, a movement little suited to it, its appeal to men grows weaker and more distant. In music a light blue is like a flute, a darker blue a cello; a still darker a thunderous double bass; and the darkest blue of all-an organ." "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." "We have before us the age of conscious creation, and this new spirit in painting is going hand in hand with the spirit of thought towards an epoch of great spiritual leaders."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mikey

    Maybe 2.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chandler

    this is basically "we paint in a society", the treatise. he's more condescending than I would imagine, his spiritualism isn't, well, material enough, and it all smacks of "bourgeois nonsense." honestly, even with the interesting discussion of the "spiritual value" of the different basic colors and how they interact this is probably worth three stars. what saves it is just how much this really mattered to him -- looking at his work you can really tell that he thought everything he wrote down. as s this is basically "we paint in a society", the treatise. he's more condescending than I would imagine, his spiritualism isn't, well, material enough, and it all smacks of "bourgeois nonsense." honestly, even with the interesting discussion of the "spiritual value" of the different basic colors and how they interact this is probably worth three stars. what saves it is just how much this really mattered to him -- looking at his work you can really tell that he thought everything he wrote down. as such, it gives a really good window into the processes that helped birth abstract art and lets you understand the cornerstone for modern art throughout the rest of the century. it's also pretty short. and funny?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Valentine

    Kadinsky on art for arts sake: "The artist seeks for material reward for his dexterity, his power of vision and experience. His purpose becomes the satisfaction of vanity and greed. In place of the steady co-operation of artists is a scramble for good things. There are complaints of excessive competition, of over-production. Hatred, partisanship, cliques, jealousy, intrigues are the natural consequences of this aimless, materialist art." Kadinsky on art for arts sake: "The artist seeks for material reward for his dexterity, his power of vision and experience. His purpose becomes the satisfaction of vanity and greed. In place of the steady co-operation of artists is a scramble for good things. There are complaints of excessive competition, of over-production. Hatred, partisanship, cliques, jealousy, intrigues are the natural consequences of this aimless, materialist art."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexander H. Ellis

    A brillian manifesto of modernist thought by an early abstract painter. Simply put, if you have an interest in abstract, non-representational art and want to understand one early innovator's theories, read this! --Also, its largely a book on theory so beware. Reading with a historical background in 20th c. art history is advised. A brillian manifesto of modernist thought by an early abstract painter. Simply put, if you have an interest in abstract, non-representational art and want to understand one early innovator's theories, read this! --Also, its largely a book on theory so beware. Reading with a historical background in 20th c. art history is advised.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I had high hopes but was disappointed in how boring and un-moving this book was. I have never been a huge Kandinsky fan, but as an art lover, appreciate his work. I keep moving from chapter to chapter, waiting to be inspired... but nothing. Boo!

  16. 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!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Falk

    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.

  18. 4 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!

  19. 4 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!

  20. 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."

  21. 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.»

  22. 4 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... 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...

  23. 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.

  24. 5 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.

  25. 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. 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ana Bubolea

    An amazing introspection into the true meaning of art, what makes art valuable and how the current times have skewed our perspective from seeking the "what", the meaning and value in art, to looking after the "how". Plus, it is written by an amazing artist himself.. An amazing introspection into the true meaning of art, what makes art valuable and how the current times have skewed our perspective from seeking the "what", the meaning and value in art, to looking after the "how". Plus, it is written by an amazing artist himself..

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Come for the soul, stay for the synesthesia.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This was kind of an interesting read, I don't think I would have undertaken it if it was any longer. This was kind of an interesting read, I don't think I would have undertaken it if it was any longer.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mari Mejias Lucianí

    I think is a good book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ju Li

    This book is otherworldly beautiful

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