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Kandinsky Hardcover – Oct 2009


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  • Hardcover: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Guggenheim Museum Publications,U.S. (Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089207390X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892073900
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7 x 26.3 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,552,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is an all-inclusive catalogue (printed in Germany) of a major triple exhibition of 100 of Kandinsky's large oil paintings. Differing from Munich and Paris the Guggenheim opted for a small square format. Making this a much lighter, more easily handled tome than usual - and a perfect fit for Kandinsky's predominately squarish paintings.

As one would expect it has immaculate colour reproductions and extensive biographical essays by 3 leading Kandinsky authorities. All of which reinforces how fortuitous it was for both Samuel R Guggenheim and Kandinsky they formed a business relationship whereby his most forward-looking art left Europe for the New World.

Although the New York Times art critic wrote enthusiastically about the staging of this exhibition what one cannot accept is her initial remarks suggesting the Guggenheim has a tedius obligation to dust off its Kandinskys every 20 years to remind America there once was this austere Russian guy who invented Abstract Art. The implication being his work remains largely incomprehensible - except to a snooty clique who despise pretty sofa pictures.

I'll admit her comment "Kandinsky never met a diagonal he didn't like" was amusing and true. It also helps to refute her other statement "he never painted a perfect picture". If she's referring to a work of art where you cannot add or subtract one musical note or one element in a painting without ruining the entire composition this exhibition contains at least 2 of his many perfect paintings.

Namely "Composition 8" and "Three Sounds". The latter being one of his most ingenious compositions where despite not having one major diagonal line the central picture surface is being pulled vigourously to the 4 corners - one of which is empty!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
"In transgressing and lying against the LORD,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood." -- Isaiah 59:13

Kandinsky's life is a fascinating study in political, social, and artist revolt within a spiritual context. There can be few parallels for his experiences and actions during the first half of the twentieth century. While I knew the outlines of those themes before reading the catalogue's essays, those factors are now burned into my consciousness in a way that allows me to see more in Kandinsky's work. That was the greatest gift of this book.

The second greatest benefit came in seeing so many of his works reproduced in mostly chronological order, making it easier to understand his geographical periods and subperiods within them (as he described them).

I admire whoever planned the catalogue for assigning so many essays from so many different perspectives. The combined effect is to cast light on many parts of Kandinsky's life and art that might otherwise have remained hidden in the shadows because the brilliant color of his triumphs eclipsed those aspects.

I particularly commend the extended, well illustrated chronology compiled by Annegret Hoberg. Well done!

The catalogue will also serve as a permanent reminder that I can always expect to see some wonderful Kandinsky paintings whenever I visit the Guggenheim in New York.

Alongside all that praise, I do have some constructive suggestions. I believe that the essays could have been either edited or coordinated in order to make them a lot less repetitive. A number of the authors appear to have been under the impression that no other sources of information would be in the book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 0 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Art as the expression of an "inner necessity" 23 Sept. 2009
By Reich Claude - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is the catalogue for the current blockbuster Kandinsky exhibition held at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, which already appeared in Munich and Paris. It is divided into several chapters which tackle such aspects as Kandinsky and America, Kandinsky's relationship with the art dealer and critic Herwarth Walden, founder of the art gallery, publishing company and art magazine "Der Sturm" in the early 1910's (who was to become one of the major proponents of Kandinsky's art, as well as that of the other members of the Blaue Reiter), Kandinsky and abstraction (and the sources of inspiration that lead the artist to follow such a radical path), etc. An interesting essay by Vivian Endicott Barnett (one of the most respected Kandinsky scholars) studies the artist's career as a succession of self-recreations and decisive turning points.

Even though there are no close-ups, the illustrations are of a high quality and manage to give the viewer a fair idea of the explosive power of Kandinsky's large compositions and of his gift as one of the major colorists in the history of art. The accompanying essays have, to my knowledge, no equivalent in other publications in English, and therefore this book is a must-have for anyone interested in the "founder of abstraction".
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Poor Book Design 14 Jan. 2010
By Buffy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In what should have the ultimate Kandinsky book is instead a major let down. The book starts off great, the cover is a nice composition and the circles are actually die cut circles in the white cover to show the colored circles underneath. After that about 2/5 of the book is devoted to critical analysis of Kandinsky. I could have done without this part in exchange for more artwork. The book itself is small in size for an art book which is a problem considering the complex compositions of Kandinsky's paintings. Once you get to the plates there is, unfortunately, too much white space around the images. So you effectively get reproductions that are postcard size---much too small to really enjoy the artwork. Because of the small illustrations I'm giving this just 1 star. There aren't a lot of Kandinsky books so you don't have much choice out there. I ended up passing on this and give it a recommendation only for the die-hard Kandinsky collectors.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
worthwhile Kandinsky overview 20 Oct. 2009
By Ivor E. Zetler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Life must have been tough for Kandinsky. Born in Odessa in 1866, his parents divorced when he was aged 5 and he suffered from depression in his youth. At the age of 30 Kandinsky bravely relinquished a promising legal career and moved to Munich to study art. The onset of World War 1 caused him to return to his homeland, only to be embroiled in the Russian Revolution. All his family wealth was confiscated during this time and his only child, Vsevolod, died aged 2, partially as a result of malnutrition. His stay in Germany was cut short by the rise of National Socialism, resulting in a further transfer to Paris in 1933. He died there of a stroke in 1944.

It is fascinating to observe the changes in Kandinsky's style with his geographic moves. This is clearly deliniated in this catalogue of the present Guggenheim exhibition. Kandinsky's most important phase coincided with his stays in Munich and Murnau (1908-14). This is where he developed his initial abstract style. Although his later works (Paris) are regarded as less significant, I enjoy the playfulness and impeccable sense of color and balance of this period.

This catalogue gives an excellent overview of Kandinsky's work and life. Most of the introductory essays and painting annotations are informative and help shed light on the artist's sometimes difficult and esoteric style. An exception is Matthias Haldemann's prolix artspeak essay eg " The picture-in-picture principle makes itself known as a kind of reflection. It is generated and dissolved like visibility as an interaction from outside and inside, and with that, subject to iconicity." Work that out if you can!

The print and reproduction quality of this book is above average. It is a pity however that the page size is on the small side; a larger format would have shown Kandinsky's works to far better advantage. Recommended with minor reservations.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
KANDINSKY - ARTIST OF THE YEAR - AND EVERY YEAR 14 Dec. 2009
By W. BUTLER - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an all-inclusive catalogue (printed in Germany) of a major triple exhibition of 100 of Kandinsky's large oil paintings. Differing from Munich and Paris the Guggenheim opted for a small square format. Making this a much lighter, more easily handled tome than usual - and a perfect fit for Kandinsky's predominately squarish paintings.

As one would expect it has immaculate colour reproductions and extensive biographical essays by 3 leading Kandinsky authorities. All of which reinforces how fortuitous it was for both Samuel R Guggenheim and Kandinsky they formed a business relationship whereby his most forward-looking art left Europe for the New World.

Although the New York Times art critic wrote enthusiastically about the staging of this exhibition what one cannot accept is her initial remarks suggesting the Guggenheim has a tedius obligation to dust off its Kandinskys every 20 years to remind America there once was this austere Russian guy who invented Abstract Art. The implication being his work remains largely incomprehensible - except to a snooty clique who despise pretty sofa pictures.

I'll admit her comment "Kandinsky never met a diagonal he didn't like" was amusing and true. It also helps to refute her other statement "he never painted a perfect picture". If she's referring to a work of art where you cannot add or subtract one musical note or one element in a painting without ruining the entire composition this exhibition contains at least 2 of his many perfect paintings.

Namely "Composition 8" and "Three Sounds". The latter being one of his most ingenious compositions where despite not having one major diagonal line the central picture surface is being pulled vigourously to the 4 corners - one of which is empty! And what other artist could resolve a heavy red, black and purple circle in the upper corner of a horizontal canvas with a myriad of thin black lines and a few pale circles.

"Accent in Pink" is another winner. The entire picture held together by one small white circle in the botton left corner. Although much emphasis is placed on his theoretical and spiritual approach to colour, during his Bauhaus period I see a supremely confident happily-married genius whose hobby was setting himself impossible compositional challenges - and inevitably finding the (god-given) inspiration to come-up with mind-boggling solutions.

But when forced to return to Paris in 1933 it's undeniable his paintings became more whimsical and diffuse. Without the stimulating competitive atmosphere of the Bauhaus he retreated into his own world - one which even his staunchest supporters find less accessible. Nevertheless in 1935 he produced "Seccession". Not so much a painting as a lexicon. A discordant colour palette which 30 years later became the norm in the 60's Psychedelic Art era. Sadly, in virtual exile during the dark days of WW2, he could never have guessed his fame and influence would continue to grow unabated during the following 65 years. But neither would he be too pleased to know during this period not one major artist has emerged to fill his shoes.

To become more familiar with the beginning of Kandinsky's roller-coaster career I'd like to recommend a wonderful catalogue for an exhibition which never left Germany in 2009 "Kandinsky - The Complete Prints". Containing 100% accurate reproductions of every single print that left Kandinsky's hand . Most of them safely stored in Gabrielle Munter's cellar to be handed over to the Lenbachhaus in 1957. The culmination of an engrossing romantic saga. Requiring the purchase of at least 4 more Kandinsky books!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Smallish Page Size Overview of Kandinsky with Overly Repetitive Essays 7 Mar. 2010
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"In transgressing and lying against the LORD,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood." -- Isaiah 59:13

Kandinsky's life is a fascinating study in political, social, and artist revolt within a spiritual context. There can be few parallels for his experiences and actions during the first half of the twentieth century. While I knew the outlines of those themes before reading the catalogue's essays, those factors are now burned into my consciousness in a way that allows me to see more in Kandinsky's work. That was the greatest gift of this book.

The second greatest benefit came in seeing so many of his works reproduced in mostly chronological order, making it easier to understand his geographical periods and subperiods within them (as he described them).

I admire whoever planned the catalogue for assigning so many essays from so many different perspectives. The combined effect is to cast light on many parts of Kandinsky's life and art that might otherwise have remained hidden in the shadows because the brilliant color of his triumphs eclipsed those aspects.

I particularly commend the extended, well illustrated chronology compiled by Annegret Hoberg. Well done!

The catalogue will also serve as a permanent reminder that I can always expect to see some wonderful Kandinsky paintings whenever I visit the Guggenheim in New York.

Alongside all that praise, I do have some constructive suggestions. I believe that the essays could have been either edited or coordinated in order to make them a lot less repetitive. A number of the authors appear to have been under the impression that no other sources of information would be in the book.

Naturally, when looking at an exhibition catalogue, especially for a major one like this, I would like as many plates as possible in the largest possible size. This book doesn't deliver as well as it might have in those dimensions. To keep the cost down, the page size is smaller than for a major show. Within the size that is presented here, many of the works are reproduced in quite small size. That's a major missed opportunity for the many works that display the kind of fine detail that would have made Miro proud.

Unless you are a Kandinsky scholar with many works already, I still commend this work for your purchase.
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