The Laws of Nature

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Birth of a Philosophy, Kandisky's transformation

Concerning the Spiritual in Art
by Wassily Kandinsky
Dover Publications, 1977
Translated by M.T.H. Sadler
image: painting by Kandinsky

Continuing where I left off (the introduction written by the translator, Sadler) it’s interesting to learn about what transformed Kandinsky’s early work into “groundbreaking” work. Changing careers and moving to Munich to study painting in the 1890’s was critical to this transformation. At that time, younger German artists had broken free of the academy-dominated art world and began a new style called Jugendstil, noted for its simplified abstraction and beauty. Therefore, Kandinsky was able to simultaneously engage in traditional painting at the university and the avant-garde art practiced by his contemporaries. This was an important influence on his later painting style and philosophy.

Rather than discussing all the details of Kandinsky’s professional life, I’ll run through the transformations in his work as he developed his distinctive and original personal style:

Initially, the Jugendstil influence led him to interpret fairytale narratives with bright colors. A little later, feeling the need to travel extensively, Kandinsky was exposed to the early exhibits of the Fauves which had a lifelong impact on him. According to Sadler: in their paintings, he saw the liberation of color, and the artist spent the rest of the decade absorbing and incorporating the implications of this freedom in his art.

This led to a major breakthrough for Kandinsky when he moved back to Munich in 1908 at a mountain resort. There, he combined Fauvist color with the primitiveness and directness derived from his Russian heritage. At first, he produced expressionist landscapes and then moved into abstraction. During this time, Kandinsky aligned with the group Der Blaue Reiter because their focus was to express their inner selves rather than conform to a single style. The artist stated: I value only those artists who really are artists, that is, who consciously or unconsciously, in an entirely original form, embody the expression of their inner life; who work only for this end and cannot work otherwise. Thus, Kandinsky’s artmaking became a search for spiritual reality through art and his philosophy was born.

We’ll delve into part one of his philosophy next time.

Reading this progression in Kandinsky’s philosophy made me wonder more about my own evolution as an artist. There are some major influences, but I can’t quite put my finger on more than one or two “aha!” moments. I’ll have to spend more time reflecting on this.
How about you?


Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, Kandinsky must have been an intense person! I wonder about the time in history too. Painting bloomed into several approaches. I think my discoveries are smaller in nature; no huge "aha!" moments that enable me to pursue only one direction.

Mark Sheeky said...

First, you chose my favourite Kandinsky painting! It manages to be subtle and strong, exact and adrift, all at once. Like Peggy I didn't really have an "aha!" I'm too introverted and sheltered to have much experience of the world outside my head.

Dan Kent said...

When I was very young, my parents took me to Massachusetts and the Norman Rockwell museum - I still feel a strong affinity to his objective to portray in an affectionate way, everyday people in daily pastimes just living life.

Anonymous said...

Kandisky's work is phenomenal. His definition of an artist is pretty hard core, but I believe he felt that way.
My first experience with cartoons was my father reading them to me on Sunday morning. It wasn't so much the cartoons I looked forward to, it was the expression of joy on his face.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I recently read the book, German Art of the Twentieth Century, 1957 (Kandinsky--intuition united with spiritual control to achieve concrete forms). I look forward to learning more; I love his work.

Celeste Bergin said...

I am not sure that I've completely defined my aha moments. This was interesting reading!

Unknown said...

Hi Peggy - Kandinsky was intense and fully engaged in the art scene of his time. It'll be interesting to learn more.

Hi Mark - sometimes the worlds inside our heads are far more vast and interesting :-)

Hi Dan - oh yes! I know that museum and see the influence in your work.

Hi Pam - how wonderful that you have that cherished memory of your dad and the funnies!

Hi Hallie - another great book I'll have to add to my list. Thanks!

Hi Celeste - I think I'll learn a lot from this book and am looking forward to how it unfolds and our discussions.