Kandinsky: Concerning the Spiritual in Art

 Picture with Archer by Wassily Kandinsky / MoMA

 Picture with Archer by Wassily Kandinsky / MoMA

I recently picked up the  book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky. I toted it around with me as it fit in my bag. I read an excerpt here and there, trying to absorb the language and meaning in the writing. Not only has it been translated into English but it was also originally in 1912 when the verbiage and language use was not quite like ours is today.

When I finally arrived at Chapter 8 and the words leapt off the page at me.

“The  work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From it is gains life and being. Nor is its existence casual or inconsequent, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good one or a bad one.

If it’s “form” is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul.

Therefore a picture is not necessarily well painted if it possesses the “values” of which the French so constantly speak. It is only well painted painted if its spiritual value is complete and satisfying.”

I was amused at the French reference who, during this era, were determining the value in art. The sentence that spoke the loudest was this: 

If it’s “form” is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul.

Deconstructing it a bit would say that a good, complete, satisfying painting inherently calls forth the corresponding vibration of the soul. 

If I get my handy thesaurus out and check the word CORRESPONDING, the words that come up are: equivalent, reciprocal, matching, answering

The work needs to match, answer and be equivalent to the vibration, energy of the soul.

I do like the way you put that, Mr. Kandinsky. I could not agree more. 

Monica Lee-HenellComment