- Paperback: 80 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised ed edition (1 June 1977)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780486234113
- ISBN-13: 978-0486234113
- ASIN: 0486234118
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 0.8 x 21.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 136 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Concerning the Spiritual in Art Paperback – 1 Jun 1977
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From the Back Cover
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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Art offers revolutionary possibility and is the sphere turned to in time of societal stress, breakdown, and chaos. “When religion, science and morality are shaken. . . . when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from externals in on to himself. Literature, music and art are the first and most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt” (p. 25).
Artists and their art connects humans to a deeper or transcendent meaning. “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist” (citing Schumann, p. 16). “No other power can take the place of art. . . at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art will grow in power, the two are inextricably connected” (p. 63).
Art communicates – without the use of words. I’m increasingly tired of the primacy of words and speech acts as the preferred communication method – particularly when the rhetoric is 2D, hateful, and divisive. “At different points along the road are the different arts, saying what they are best able to say, and in the language (emphasis mine) which is peculiarly their own” (p. 31).
One’s hermeneutic must move beyond impression or observation (what the art is, what it depicts, or its specific configuration or construction) to an allowance for the art to communicate its meaning. “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. . . . his eye does not probe the outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning” (p. 58).
Kandinsky's Spiritual Triangle represents a societal and personal progression from solely material to spiritual concerns where the primary movement is influenced by artists and their work. “Painting is an art, and art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul – to, in fact, the raising of the spiritual triangle” (p. 62).
My curiosity about this notion of 'spiritual in art' arises from a bias that there's something about aesthetic experience that facilitates a moment where humans transcend individual interest solely captivated by the awe or beauty of the experience of art, music, theater, dance, etc. andinsky's work provides a framework via the triangle to understand art and artist's importance beyond the material toward meaning, purpose and transcendence. I realize in using the word transcendence I'm not defining it - this too is a term I want to learn more about. Reading Kandinsky is but a starting point in this exploration - finally, this work was written early in Kandinsky's career - it would be good to read more of his ideas to further clarify definition and meaning of key constructs: spiritual, sacred, inner meaning, and inner need, for examples.
This would be a good read for those interested in art history, spirituality, aesthetics, and experience. I can imagine those interested in place design also benefiting from this book especially Kandinsky's discussion of color.
Note: My review is based on 2010 version
I have not read the original text, but the translation is laborious. Also missing, are illustrations referenced in the text. And what were the advertisements for Hootsuite doing in the front of the book?
In summation, it has been said that all students of art must read this text. I would replace "must" with "may well want to" and add that they should look for a better translation.