Thursday, February 20, 2014

Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Concerning the Spiritual in Art leapt up from the shelf and into my hand before I knew what had happened. Actually, I think the name of author Wassily Kandinsky leapt up and caught my eye and my hand couldn't resist making the connection physical. I knew Kandinsky as an artist and hadn't realized he had written anything. You can read it online here.

from the back of the book:
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 crystalizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own ground-breaking 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 the 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 twentieth-century painting.
There is a 2011 paper here that re-evaluates the work on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in which the author claims, "What I am arguing is that the spiritual crisis of the contemporary artist is greater than Kandinsky's. Kandinsky knew art was in spiritual crisis, whereas today's materialistic artist doesn't see any spiritual crisis. All that matters is materialistic success." The Guardian explains how Kandinsky's book is as relevant now as when it was written.


  1. This sounds like just what I need! I have downloaded both the PDF and a Kindle version of the book - what a great resource that online-archive is! Thanks!

    1. i'm glad :) i love having access to books and movies online.