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Concerning the Spiritual in Art Paperback – June 1, 1977

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised edition (June 1, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486234118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486234113
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Seminal' - The Independent<

'A key text in the history of modernism' -Guardian

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I needed to read this book in order to write my own novel set in Kandinsky's time and place.
lily ennis
It has been one of the best insights into modern art, its transcendence to the spiritual and its relationship to music and the philosophy of the times.
M. Basic
Kandinsky writes about a way of experiencing art and seeing things that makes the world a more beautiful place.
Artist Bill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 174 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
Kandinsky spent a lifetime painting in search of the spiritual. His body of work was his philosophical opus, provoked initially by the prodigious philosophical works of Madame Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, in which she introduced the Western world--and Kandinsky--to Eastern philosophies. Kandinsky believed that art had a duty to be spiritual in nature, an expression of "inner need," as he came to call it. He called "art for art's sake" a "vain squandering of artistic power." This book was both his call to artists to meet their obligation to humanity and his attempt to define and explain color and form in its relation to expressing the message of the soul.
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86 of 87 people found the following review helpful By C. B Collins Jr. on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
All art students are advised to read this short masterpiece but I suspect few young artists take the time to read the book that best explains the concepts that lead to abstract painting in the modern era. I think it would be useful if I pointed out some of the most important and interesting themes and ideas that Kandinsky explains so tht you can see the vast range of this short 80 page book.

First, Kandinsky was greatly influenced by music and recognized that music was judged under different standards than was painting. For example, music is not judged by how much the music sounds like noises in nature. We would never go to a symphony to hear the musicians imitate dogs barking, or ambulance sirens, or police whistles. Yet painting is judged by how well the painter reflects the natural world in a realistic style. Thus for Kandinsky, the ability for painting to lose the object, would free painting to pursue the spiritual. However, the ability for the painter to paint without painting the object is very much a challenge. He gives advice to the read on the use of line, form, and color to try to achieve this goal. But Kandinsky recognized how fragile this makes the painting process, for any brush stroke or color or shape can evoke the material world again. Kandinsky wishes the artist to free themselves from the material world so that they can express their inner impulses. Thus the abstract painting requires contemplation to reveal its meaning. Furthermore, the meaning may be a projection of the inner life of the viewer as much as it is the inner life of the artists. This concept is not new to music but it certainly was new to painting in 1911. Now we hear about the Rothko chapel in Fort Worth, where large abstract paintings by Mark Rothko create a meditative space for contemplative viewers.
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90 of 96 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on October 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
The 1910s was surely the most exciting, radical, innovative and genuinely NEW period in the history of all the arts, writing, music, painting, cinema, dance. it was also one of the few periods when creative frenzy was escorted by critical might, and is almost as famous for its artistic collectives, its '-isms', its iconoclasms and its spectacularly aggressive, wipe-the-slate-clean manifestoes as it is for any one artwork produced.
Today, however, there aren't many of these manifstoes that possess more than quaint historical value. Kandinsky's 'Concerning the Spiritual in Art' is one, and probably to our own shame, speaks as loudly to us today as it did to the artist's contemporaries. A cry against all that is bogus or a dead-end in art - the bourgeois-currying; the trend-following; the excessively materialistic, naturalistic or representational; art in which formal invention is not matched by emotional power - the book demands a return to spirituality in art in an age where a godless faith in science has resulted in a soulless culture.
Kandinsky is the artist who said that 'Art was close to religion', and his concept of painting is heavly bound up with his Russian orthodox upbringing (as well as later exposure to theosophy). One does not have to be a card-carrying mystic, however, to recognise the truth of his central argument, that the only art with the power to truly move us is that which is ruthlessly faithful to the artist's inner need, not public taste or contemporary styles.
this belief led Kandinsky towards abstraction: he rejected the idea that a painter should draw what was on the surface, instead of its inherent spirit or harmony (if this led to a cul-de-sac in 20th century art, this is because Kandinsky's mimics lacked his moral drive).
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Ryan on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Kandinsky throws his ideas out in a slightly esoteric manner. It make take a few rereads to really grasp the quality of discourse he presents. But, in the end, his commentary shines brightly through his comparisons of music to painting. The spiritual triangle is comparable to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It is important to remember that Kandinsky is not using the term "spiritual" in a religious sense.

This book is a very good read for anyone feeling slumped in their art making. And for anyone who wants to expose themselves to ways of thinking about art. By the third time I had read the material I had underlined and highlighted almost every line and filled all the margins with notes. The book is fantastic. It is especially good when paired with Hans Hofmann's essay "In Search for the Real." Although the ideas in the two books do not parallel. In fact the lines aren't even on the same page. Kandinksky's critiques of other familiar artists are very interesting too. Names like picasso and Cezanne pop up quite a bit.

I'll stop rambling now. Read the book, it is very good.
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