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The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 Paperback – 1986

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Paperback, 1986
$112.12 $38.99

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

By demonstrating the huge impact of mysticism and the occult on 20th-century artists from Gauguin to Pollack, Mondrian to O'Keefe, this work effectively refutes the popular fallacy that modernism is concerned solely with line, form, and color. Further, as it examines modernism's complex philosophical origins, it demonstrates that without such impact, abstract art as we know it would not have emerged at all. Seventeen essays, all by distinguished scholars, treat topics as diverse as synesthesia, theosophy, alchemy, hermeticism, Yoga, and Zen, and several overlooked or forgotten artists are given serious consideration. This work, the catalog for an exhibit mounted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, belongs in every serious art library.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Art Dept., Goucher Coll., Towson, Md.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press (1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789200562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789200563
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 10.8 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Crisel on May 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have owned this book for over twenty years and I never get tired of pouring over it again. It is an absolute treasure trove of information and is packed full of glorious illustrations- it's the one book I refuse to loan out. As an artist, this is the most important book in my collection.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is a fantastic quality to the compliation of works in the Spiritual in Art, that indicates a profound understanding of the mystical forces of inspiration involved with the process of artistic endeavor. The book chronicles the exhibition of the same name organized by Maurice Truchman and Judi Freeman at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Many of the major artists of the 20th century are represented; Mondrian, Duchamps and Kandinsky to name a few. The ideosyncratic spin to the show lies in the examination of their work from a philospophical and spiritual standpoint that involves a more involved examination than is often given with the popular criticism styles of art history - ie; socio-political and aesthetic. With the aid of this book, the reader gleans a more profound understanding of the motivational forces at work in these artists whose creations transport viewers to new worlds and dimensions with only a glance.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Howse on April 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a great read for anyone that is interested in both art and spirituality. It is "A body of research on the origins of abstract art [and its] connections with occult and mystical belief systems". It is a collaboration of several scholars on the subject of hidden meanings in abstract art. The following selection of quotes give an idea of the tone of the book.
"It is only when new and strange forms are used because they are necessary to express a spiritual content that the result is a living work of art." "The mystical-occult believer has direct access to the 'source'. There is no need for intermediaries of authorities, as in organized religious institutions. Thus reflection becomes a commonly sought, private activity." "Trace a circle no longer than a dot, the whole birth of Eternal Nature is therein contained." "Spiritually inclined artists sought out other who shared their interests and studied diagrams and texts in original spiritual source material." "In sacred geometry the complexities and abstract truths expressed by geometric forms are linked to mystical tenets."
Many big names in modern art are referred to. "[Victor Hugo] conducted seances with his family...[and] recorded his dialogs with Shakespeare, Dante, Aeschylus, and Moliér." "Munch was aware of Swedenborg's belief in seeing auras around people." "Wassily Kandinsky, Frantisek Kupka, Piet Mondrion, and Kazimir Malevich moved toward abstraction through their involvement with spiritual issues and beliefs." Emerson is quoted as saying: "Natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact." "Kandinsky adopted Theosophy's model for his theory: finer emotion consists of vibration, vibration shapes the work of art, the work vibrates, and the soul of the beholders set into vibration."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By 18thst on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this item back in the early nineties when I was a young painter in school. I poured over its essays and absorbed all I could from the reproductions of the artwork in it. This catalog was one of the first I had ever purchased and it was also a constant presence in my various studios. Then I loaned it to another young, very earnest artist. Finally, nine years later and I've replaced it. Upon rereading portions of it, some of the essays seem dated, if not altogether strained. Be that as it may, this is still a marvelous collection of thoughts and images that attempts to cast new light on some modernity's favored children and dust off a few of it's more neglected relations. I would suggest that if this work appeals to you, then you might enjoy reading much of the work of James Elkins
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maria on April 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would say this is probably an essential source for any painting student, as I've gained so much from it already. Wonderful essays and drawings from the turn of the century onward. The stereotypes of Abstract Painting are questioned in a natural and convincing way. Very refreshing. Get the hardcover. Totally worth it.
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