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Concerning the spiritual in art (The Documents of modern art) [Unknown Binding]

Wassily Kandinsky
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Morgan Press (1972)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007GWJN8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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First Sentence
Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REACHING FOR THE STARS 4 Dec 2008
Kandinsky considered art closely paralleled music in its development and argues his theory in a series of short,but readable essays.He also includes an interesting chapter on personal abstract expressionism,from which he derives the title to this unabridged enlightening book .This gives further insight into the mind of perhaps the most 'intriguing' artist of the 20th century.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time to call back the soul in art 13 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic short book. I am amazed I hadn't heard of it before. It only came to my attention recently when one of my students, Nic Green, used it as a basis for her essay at the Centre for Human Ecology: the student teaching the teacher.

Kandinsky, who was one of the founders of modern art, sets out to confront the crass materialism of his era. In this, he stands in the tradition of Russian art that sees "Art as service" - and specifically, as service of that which has the sacred at its core.

He understands "spirituality" as being the interiority of things, their inner source of meaning and life. This leads to his attack on 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). It needs to be understood that the cultural backdrop to this was that Russian intellectual life had been split by half a century of "positivism" coming in from the West - the materialistic idea that only "facts" matter, "the triumph of the fact", and that there is, as the positivists would have it, no God, therefore no soul, thus their nihilism.

Just as writers at the time such as Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy attacked positivism in their novels, so a number of late 19th century Russian painters did so in their art - see From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925: from Moscow and St Petersburg. One of the most influential, Ivan Kramskoi, was an initiator of The Wanderers (or Itinerants) circle, in Russian, the Peredvizhniki. As he put it, "What is a real atheist? He is a person who draws strength only from himself" (ibid. p. 164).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wassily Kandinsky was one of the pioneers of abstract painting who sought to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality. With his creative practice and theoretical work he attempted to bring together the spiritual idea of art with the aesthetic idea of art. "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" is a text that revolutionized twentieth-century painting and continues to influence artists up to the present day. "More than any other single factor, this book helped disseminate and foster acceptance of the new principles upon which much of modern art developed."
In a consumer age like ours is -where art is characterized by commodification and business tactics- "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" (first published in 1911) still holds its ground: it opposes prevailing materialist attitudes and "demands" an art that is an expression of an "inner need". The "inner need" is built up of three "mystical" elements: the personality/idiosyncrasy of the artist, the "spirit" of the age (the current styles/trends) and "pure artistry" (the "eternal" aspect of art).
Influenced by the Theosophical movement (which sees life as an evolutionary process, a kind of geometric progression divided into different stages), Kandinsky suggests that society can be represented in diagram as a triangle. The base of the triangle represents the majority of people -the masses- who have no interest in promoting spiritual issues; moving towards the peak of the triangle there is a rise of spiritual awareness (and a subsequent drop in the number of people). In Kandinsky's opinion, the artist (or other charismatic people such as the philosopher) stands alone at the peak of the triangle- a kind of misunderstood genius whose task is to promote cultural and spiritual growth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true journey through art and the spirit 29 Nov 2010
I havent got very far with this book as yet but what I have taken in is how fluent Kandinsky was in his creativity.

This book will give my own work deeper insights as I endeavour to look beyond my own reasoning to find deeper truths within all that I create. I am looking forward to reading further.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 10 Aug 2011
I am not a great fan of Kandinsky's paintings, but this book blew me away! It's not often that the greats put pen to paper and reveal their views so eloquently and articulately, as it's very difficult to put down in words the spiritual/creative process, but in this Kandinsky succeeds; bringing to light what artists already feel and are interested in which they will instinctively connect to and understand in his writing. Every chapter of this book revealed a new and penetrating insight into art which greatly inspired me with my own art practice. It's only a shame that the illustrations and diagrams are not in colour which would have helped illustrate his points better, but nonetheless an absolute must read for any artist. I only wish I had read it a lot earlier!
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