Manual Concerning the Spiritual—and the Concrete—in Kandinsky’s Art

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It merely takes a brief stroll through an art museum to realise that art changes constantly. There is a shocking contrast between medieval paintings and those produced during the Renaissance era. However, there is an even more shocking contrast between art created in the late XIXth century and art in the first decades of the XX century. What happened? This essay will pursue to understand the changes that occurred in the art world in the beginning of the XXth from a philosophical perspective. By doing so, the intention is to achieve a deeper knowledge of how art evolved from being primarily an experience of the senses into another of much more philosophical nature: this transformation can be observed, for instance, in the constant use of philosophical terminology in contemporary art, with topics such as existence and death being present.

This connection between art and philosophy can also be seen in the fact that many philosophers were interested in modern art, such as Heidegger; and also, artists interested in philosophy, for example, Rothko. Abstract art, first theorised by Wassily Kandinsky, was one of the most important pillars of this new metaphysical art as it separated from the tangible world, and directed its attention towards an inner reality.

Therefore, this paper will seek to explain and explore his writings, mainly Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane , in order to better grasp this revolution in art that eventually changed the artistic world forever. Colour cannot stand alone; it cannot dispense with boundaries of some kind. A never- ending extent of red can only be seen in the mind; when the word red if heard, the colour is evoked without definite boundaries.

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It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own. The XXth century was a time of great changes, and naturally this was reflected in art. Ideas that originated during the XIXth century were tested and became a reality. Boston: MFA Publications.

Dan Noga: Kandinsky, Spiritual Insight, and Abstract Art

Originally 2 Ibid, p. Communications also became easier thanks to better railroad structures and the appearance of the automobile, as well as the more generalised use of the telephone and telegraph. Distances shortened. In brief, life became faster and easier. Evidently, all material changes and alterations do not come without powerful ideological changes.

In fact, cultural and philosophical ideas contributed to the transformation of the world. And from this transformation, new ideas emerged. In the turn of the century, two concepts which originated in the XIXth century collided: the materialistic obsession of dominating new territories in order to acquire glory and success, inherited from the imperialistic ideals; and the quest for spiritual fulfilment focused on exploring non-western ideologies.

Overall, it was a quest for novelty and a desire to explore the world, for one reason or another. Art absorbed all these new concepts and by doing so, it started its own revolution. Nowadays, looking at a Contemporary piece in a gallery or museum, one often feels ridiculous and insecure, wishing there was an easy technique or system for understanding and valuing art; and one wonders if it is more absurd to praise or to criticise what one does not understand.

But how did the art world reach this point? There is a process which art went through, were it completely reinvented itself. Likewise, society experimented changes that allowed it to become more tolerant towards what it did not comprehend. First, it took as step forward as nature became less important and the artist and his or her vision became more. Then, the appearance of abstract art, the main focus of this essay, where it was decided that art could express and analyse topics without using figurative language.

From this separation from nature, the path was free for art to experiment with different ways of communicating a message, for instance, conceptual art and performance art. This essay pretends to establish the importance of abstraction in art, as it opened the door to a new, more intellectual way of understanding art, and in this sense, helped transform the nature of art. Improvisation Sintflut Wassily Kandinsky was one of the first to paint abstract pieces and also, to theorise about them.

He constitutes a true pioneer of art theory in the XXth century and without him, art would be very different from what it is today. This is the reason why this essay is based on his work and theories.

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Der Blaue Reiter

He was recognised by many of his contemporaries as one of the greatest artistic minds of his time. Diego Rivera, in , in San Francisco after attending an exhibition, stated: I know of nothing more real than the painting of Kandinsky - nor anything more true and nothing more beautiful.

A painting by Kandinsky gives no image of earthly life - it is life itself. He organises matter as matter was organised, otherwise the Universe would not exist. He opened a window to look inside the All. Someday, Kandinsky will be the best known and best loved of men. The richness of his artwork and theories and the way they evolved is the result of this. Being a sensible child, he tried to evade this harsh reality by immersing himself in stories and fantasies, most of which he learned from the Russian and German tales his aunt used to read to him.

These tales would mark him, and would be present in many of his paintings. The influence of folk tales and traditions made a big impact on him. His love for art was present from the start, especially music. He returned to his dear Moscow in order to attend university, where he studied Law and Economics. However, his creative mind was always filled with doubts on whether his deep love for art was merely a passion to enjoy in his free time or perhaps something else: his true calling.

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And suddenly, for the first time, I saw a picture. That it was a haystack, the catalogue informed me. I found this nonrecognition painful, and thought that the painter had no right to paint so indistinctly. I had a dull feeling that the object was lacking in this picture. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably upon my memory, always hovering quite unexpectedly before my eyes, down to the last detail. It was all unclear to me, and I was not able to draw the simple conclusions from this experience.

What was, however, quite clear to me was the unsuspected power of the palette, previously concealed from me, which exceeded all my dreams. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour. And, albeit unconsciously, objects were discredited as an essential element within the picture. He said: In Lohengrin, I saw all my colours in my mind; the stood before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in from of me. It became quite clear to me that art in general was far more powerful than I had thought, and on the other hand, that painting could develop just such power as music possesses.

Reminiscences, After these two key experiences, he decided to abandon his career teaching Law at the university and instead, dedicate himself fully to painting, in order to explore these new ideas he was developing of art as a musical experience for the soul. Nevertheless, by he had left these classes, as he discovered his style was far from academic and he was not achieving what his spirit was hoping for.

During these years, he began experimenting with new techniques and using a very colourful style; his heart was yearning for something he could not yet describe exactly.

Concerning the Spiritual—and the Concrete—in Kandinsky’s Art - Lisa Florman - Google книги

After realising this group did not prosper, he chose to leave. With her, he travelled around Europe looking for inspiration and knowledge.


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And also, they had a summerhouse in Murnau, a very special place for him, where he often painted the views, and where he felt safe and at ease. In it, they put together a group of artists that shared with each other interesting ideas and concepts, creating and atmosphere for discussion and exchange of points of view. This was also the time were he published his first book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, where he explains his theories of the role of art and how colours and forms affect the soul thoroughly explained in chapter 3.

Wassily Kandinsky

He arrived to a very different country than that which he remembered: Russia was going through very rapid changes, not only economical and social but also artistic. Although Russian art shared his ideas of abstraction being the future of art, it was abstraction understood in a very different way, which searched for rationality and useful art, such as Constructivism; or abstraction understood as a search for the absolute, abandoning any reference and connection with the tangible world, such a Suprematism.

Although these ways of envisioning abstract art were very different from the art Kandinsky produced in Germany, he did take them into consideration, evolving his style. As a result, his compositions became much more ordered and more attentive to geometry. At this point, he made the decision of returning to Germany. Upon his arrival in Germany, he encounters a country wounded by the war but thirsty for renovation and recovery, with a deep desire for greatness.

Kandinsky joined them in the year and taught several classes, and he also had a space to reflect and develop his theories. Although he was never a fan of Constructivism, he incorporated some of its principles to his own theories. It has been said that in Russia, his style became more organised and simplified, and in the Bauhaus period this became ever more so. In his first time in Germany, he focused on colour and the possibilities it held; in this second stay in the country, he instead dedicated himself to the study of form.

In , he published his new book Point and line to plane, where he goes through this new perspective. As a consequence, he left to Paris, where he found a very different artistic environment to what he was used to: Paris was flourishing with different artistic propositions, that were not very interested in abstract art, such as Dadaism and Surrealism.

As has been said before, his style was constantly evolving and taking into consideration the different artistic proposal of his time and place. Nevertheless, Kandinsky managed to preserve his vision that art was meant for something great, not mere decoration that was aesthetically pleasing or to serve a superficial purpose by transforming into propaganda. For Kandinsky, the XX century would be the beginning of a new era: the Spiritual Era, one in which the focus would cease to be on material things and, instead, swift towards transcendental truths and intangible emotions; in other words, the world would evolve to concentrate on a more abstract reality.

Therefore, it would be only logical that abstraction in art was the reasonable conclusion of this new era. According to him, it all started as a human spiritual quest. In other words, abstraction was a logical conclusion; the world needed it. It is quite reasonable to ask oneself whether it was the world that changed art or perhaps it was art that changed the world.

Who changed whom? When pondering upon these events, a word comes to mind: revolution. A revolution is commonly seen as a political renovation.


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  • However, that would be a very narrow definition, as it fails to consider social and ideological changes that deeply alter the state of things. In art, a revolution means a transformation of the way art is done or understood, which is exactly what happened in the XX century. Said transformation was not a superficial one, where new techniques were discovered and used but actually, a complete rebirth of the concept of art.

    Art no longer feels the obligation to present what is beautiful; the resources it uses to communicate rarely awaken in the spectator the same response as when he encounters beauty. On the contrary, contemporary art is conceptual even when this is not its intention, as it exemplifies a reflective take on creation, on reality; in other words, not intuitive. Art understands itself as thought, not as techne, artisanal labour. Flamarique, Flamarique, 6 Now, without the pressure of a certain style or technique, artist can experiment and create guided only by the need of expression.