Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky


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Page 1


Mosaic in S. Vitale, Ravenna

Victor and Heinrich Dunwegge: "The Crucifixion" (in the Alte
Pinakothek, Munich)

Albrecht Durer: "The Descent from the Cross" (in the Alte
Pinakothek, Munich)

Raphael: "The Canigiani Holy Family" (in the Alte Pinakothek,

Paul Cezanne: "Bathing Women" (by permission of Messrs.
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris)

Kandinsky: Impression No. 4, "Moscow" (1911)

"Improvisation No. 29 (1912)
"Composition No. 2 (1910)
"Kleine Freuden" (1913)


It is no common thing to find an artist who, even if he be
willing to try, is capable of expressing his aims and ideals with
any clearness and moderation. Some people will say that any such
capacity is a flaw in the perfect artist, who should find his
expression in line and colour, and leave the multitude to grope
its way unaided towards comprehension. This attitude is a relic
of the days when "l'art pour l'art" was the latest battle cry;
when eccentricity of manner and irregularity of life were more
important than any talent to the would-be artist; when every one
except oneself was bourgeois.

The last few years have in some measure removed this absurdity,
by destroying the old convention that it was middle-class to be
sane, and that between the artist and the outer-world yawned a
gulf which few could cross. Modern artists are beginning to
realize their social duties. They are the spiritual teachers of
the world, and for their teaching to have weight, it must be
comprehensible. Any attempt, therefore, to bring artist and
public into sympathy, to enable the latter to understand the
ideals of the former, should be thoroughly welcome; and such an
attempt is this book of Kandinsky's.

The author is one of the leaders of the new art movement in
Munich. The group of which he is a member includes painters,
poets, musicians, dramatists, critics, all working to the same
end--the expression of the SOUL of nature and humanity, or, as
Kandinsky terms it, the INNERER KLANG.

Perhaps the fault of this book of theory--or rather the
characteristic most likely to give cause for attack--is the
tendency to verbosity. Philosophy, especially in the hands of a
writer of German, presents inexhaustible opportunities for vague
and grandiloquent language. Partly for this reason, partly from
incompetence, I have not primarily attempted to deal with the
philosophical basis of Kandinsky's art. Some, probably, will find
in this aspect of the book its chief interest, but better service
will be done to the author's ideas by leaving them to the
reader's judgement than by even the most expert criticism.

The power of a book to excite argument is often the best proof of
its value, and my own experience has always been that those new
ideas are at once most challenging and most stimulating which
come direct from their author, with no intermediate discussion.

The task undertaken in this Introduction is a humbler but perhaps
a more necessary one. England, throughout her history, has shown
scant respect for sudden spasms of theory. Whether in politics,
religion, or art, she demands an historical foundation for every
belief, and when such a foundation is not forthcoming she may
smile indulgently, but serious interest is immediately withdrawn.
I am keenly anxious that Kandinsky's art should not suffer this
fate. My personal belief in his sincerity and the future of his
ideas will go for very little, but if it can be shown that he is
a reasonable development of what we regard as serious art, that
he is no adventurer striving for a momentary notoriety by the
strangeness of his beliefs, then there is a chance that some
people at least will give his art fair consideration, and that,
of these people, a few will come to love it as, in my opinion, it

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 28th Feb 2020, 13:26