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Concerning the Spiritual in Art

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  76,229 ratings  ·  317 reviews
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 crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published June 1st 1977 by Dover Publications (first published 1912)
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Winston King The cover painting certainly is difficult to track down. The book omitted title and attribution (though we can assume it is a work by Kandinsky) in it…moreThe cover painting certainly is difficult to track down. The book omitted title and attribution (though we can assume it is a work by Kandinsky) in its pages.

The painting is Kandinsky's "Improvisation 11" created in 1910. It currently resides in the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. It measures 38.4 × 41.9" (97.5 × 106.5 cm).(less)

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Ridgely
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
What saves this book is superlative phrase-turning and humor, intended or otherwise. If you've ever been tempted to bronze your subjective aesthetic and mount it in the museum between philosophy and science, this will be there to remind you how nearly impossible it is to pull off. Kandinsky couldn't do it and neither can you. I mean he sets forth to launch a theory of color analogized to harmonics, but what really comes through is an abiding disdain for yellow, coupled with a love letter to blue ...more
Roy Lotz
Mar 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: artsy-fartsy
Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the petrified ideas of yesterday and of the more distant past.

The first time I saw a painting by Kandinsky was in the Guggenheim Museum. Back then, I really didn’t have much appreciation for visual art, least of all abstract paintings. Nevertheless, I remember being intrigued, and finally fascinated by his work. The way he was able to select forms reminiscent of, but not dependent on, real-life objects delighted my eye. Later, I saw a special exhibitio
...more
Matt
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I hit my artistic peak with my rendering of my uncle’s Conan the Barbarian upper arm tattoo (complete with blood splatter) when I was eight. Truly appreciating art always seemed like the province of finer souls. A secret protected on par with gypsy divination and Shamrock shakes. I guess I always thought art was beyond words. Kandinsky, in his brief book, proves otherwise. Incredibly lucid and articulate, Kandinsky leads the reader to move past an intellectual appreciation of art:
The spectator i
...more
Quiver
To me, Kandinsky is the Kandinsky from the Bauhaus period, when his paintings were dominated by abstract compositions comprising lines, circles, triangles, and bold colours. Though Concerning the Spiritual in Art was written some ten years prior, the book may as well be about the explorations in artworks such as these.

Vassily Kandinsky, 1923 - Circles in a Circle

Part I of the book has one memorable idea: Kandinsky depicts the life of the spirit as a triangle, forever moving gently upwards, or rather, forever moved upwards by artists—th
...more
Mel
This was worth reading. Some of the language was a little flowery so I will probably read it again at some point. It makes some interesting points. I wish the art was in color and not black and white since he talks so much about the significance of color especially red. It was a fast read and interesting so it was worth my time to read this one.
Michelle
I'm finally getting around to reading Wassily Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In it, the artist explains his plans for the ascent of spiritually fulfilling and expressive art that surpasses mere replication of natural form. This is not to say that Kandinsky is in favor of pure abstraction. He faults cubism as too intellectual and spiritually lacking, as opposed to inspired abstractions.
I most enjoyed his breakdown of color theory, setting antitheses of white and black (obvi), yellow
...more
Ellis
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Picked this short treatise up used for cheap. Kandinsky has a lot of very interesting ideas about the relation of art and music and poetry, with some discussion of social status/interpersonal relationships (just a dash). He is a modernist through and through. The introduction is enough to get you excited to read it and I just love his description about what art is and ought to be. Dense and could be a better translation, I think. Takes some concentration to understand it all and follow the metap ...more
David
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A professional artist/teacher friend of mine gave me a copy of Kandinsky's book at a recent workshop she was leading. Consider the long period of the 20th Century during which Kandinsky practiced what he preached as a "Spiritual Revolution" in art. Spiritual Revolution was a popular theme throughout the century. A Baha'i pamphlet with that title was published in the 1970's. Being an activist artist in that revolution now is as important as ever.
Christina
Jun 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes but was disappointed in how boring and un-moving this book was. I have never been a huge Kandinsky fan, but as an art lover, appreciate his work. I keep moving from chapter to chapter, waiting to be inspired... but nothing. Boo!
Benjamin Valentine
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kadinsky on art for arts sake: "The artist seeks for material reward for his dexterity, his power of vision and experience. His purpose becomes the satisfaction of vanity and greed. In place of the steady co-operation of artists is a scramble for good things. There are complaints of excessive competition, of over-production. Hatred, partisanship, cliques, jealousy, intrigues are the natural consequences of this aimless, materialist art."
Chandler
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
this is basically "we paint in a society", the treatise.

he's more condescending than I would imagine, his spiritualism isn't, well, material enough, and it all smacks of "bourgeois nonsense." honestly, even with the interesting discussion of the "spiritual value" of the different basic colors and how they interact this is probably worth three stars. what saves it is just how much this really mattered to him -- looking at his work you can really tell that he thought everything he wrote down. as s
...more
Michael Franklin
Feb 02, 2008 rated it liked it
kandinsky's respondeo ut the world of art, in his time, to the past, and for the future of art is widely considered one of the greatest documents on art by an artist. sure, i'll accept that. however, i believe this is more of an assault on the condition of the human spirit than a treatise on the state of art.

kandinsky reiterates, many times, his disgust for the broad acceptance of and reverence towards "stagnate art". as an artist himself, he is quite aware of the vast differences between what t
...more
Falk
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-arts, nonfiction
While I’m not a fan of Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, I find his theoretical writings all the more interesting, and it is perhaps these that are his major contribution. In the first part of the book he writes about the historical movement of art as a pyramid, where the apex represent the forerunners – those who will be understood and accepted only at at a later time:

“The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle divided horizontally into unequal pa
...more
Lisa
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this as an e-book. I think I would have liked it better in physical form. Maybe I will reread it someday in a hard copy and see if it is the case.
Bill
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
In some ways I enjoyed the two rather lengthy introductions to the book (not by Kandinsky himself) -- which put his career and ideas in a historical perspective -- more than the book itself. I read the following review from an Amazon reader. I agree with most of it, and he brings out some of the more important points Kandinsky offers in his book. I especially like this insight from the reviewer: "His spirituality is not an incarnational one, where the Spirit interpenetrates and quickens matter, ...more
Yana Milenkova
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kandinsky is not only a painter, but also an accomplished and logical writer. He obviously was influenced by German idealistic philosophy, adhered to the position of antipositivism. It’s interesting to observe how problems of religion and occultism were at the center of his attention and reflected on his theory of art.
Ana Bubolea
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An amazing introspection into the true meaning of art, what makes art valuable and how the current times have skewed our perspective from seeking the "what", the meaning and value in art, to looking after the "how".

Plus, it is written by an amazing artist himself..
Gastjäle
I'll have to ruminate on the message of this book more in order to write down a proper review and rate this tome. A re-read or two are most likely in order withal.

Frank
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
All of Kandinky’s opinions of art/the artist may be boiled down to the following:

1. Art, namely painting and music are interrelated, children of a particular age, and created by the “mysterious and secret way” by the artist (53). “There is no ‘must’ in art, because art is free”(32).

2. The more abstract art tends to become, the more reflective and representative of the “inner life” or spiritual nature of humanity because as naturalism/realism is shed (not necessarily form since form in Cubism is
...more
Ben
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book. Kandinsky's ideas on art and its ultimate goal are nothing short of inspirational.
No matter what area of art you enjoy, whether it be music, painting or even writing; this book is completely relevant. He is an artist who is completely "in tune" with all aspects of creativity. His way of explaining, though quite poetic and grandoise at times, is very clear to read and understand. He's not just a great painter, but a captivating writer who really has a way with words. Th
...more
P. Timothy
Jun 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this in anticipation of possibly leading a class on Spirituality and Art...and as a primer of sorts on the early thoughts about the connection between Spirituality and the Arts, especially connected with Modern art into abstraction. Some of his thoughts are brilliian and prescient; some really are parallel to Dewey, James and the like philosophers, along with Dr. Albert Barnes, and some of it comes off as purely bunkish guesses...but that is the issue with ground-breaking writing and thou ...more
Ana
Sep 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was not aware of the intrinsic relation between form and color. Plus, I found completely stimulating (just by reading) his description of contrasting colors, their antagonisms and synthesis. Apparently while yellow warmly moves, blue is coldly inert, the former expressing a bodily experience, the latter spiritual. An the "theory" goes on. I would never thought of green as stationary, yet he made me wonder...

I won't get into his argument about the artist as king. I will just retain the "languag
...more
Cameron
May 31, 2012 rated it liked it
A powerful, lucid manifesto by Kandinsky, the famous Russian Expressionist, calling for the artist to proceed inward to cultivate the abstract expressions of the inner spirit and away from material representation. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that in addition to his obvious mastery as a painter, Kandinsky was also an accomplished and logical writer.

"The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning"
C. Vau
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apryl Anderson
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kandinsky's 'Movement of the Triangle' was precisely the visual I needed to understand this process of the collective conscience going forward, yet circling eternal revelations. Also, I agree with his discussion of the related arts, and I'm surprised that he didn't mention the 'Musica universalis'. As for the color theory, I need to spend some time with that...
Pam
Mar 28, 2012 added it
Shelves: art
I absolutely LOVE art. I like it a bit challenging not just the normal wildly popular stuff, BUT I just can't read about it. I try, but most of the writing seems overly analytical, not visual or emotional like the subject. I have tried to read this book...I have actually read this book, but it doesn't seem to sink in... I guess I will just keep loving art and trying to read about it.
Sian
May 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Craaaaazy shit, but also totally brilliant.

Kandinsky had this condition called synesthesia where he could like, feel and hear colors and all his senses were mixed up. While it is a serious medical condition, it makes for some incredible writing.
Kaye
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I appreciate that this is a brilliant book, and thus gave it 4 stars...based on the parts of it I understood. I'll probably go back and read portions from time to time in order to try to understand it more completely.
Ryan
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was kind of an interesting read, I don't think I would have undertaken it if it was any longer.
Kathryn
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Come for the soul, stay for the synesthesia.
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Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was a Russian painter, and Art theorist. He is credited with painting the first modern abstract works.
Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow and chose to study law and economics. Quite successful in his profession—he was offered a professorship (chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat—he started painti
...more

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