Wassily Kandinsky: 1866-1944 a Revolution in Painting by Hajo Düchting
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A lavishly-illustrated, easily-digested account of Kandinsky's career and the careful thought he put behind his paintings. Kandinsky is portrayed here as an emotionally-honest artist who worked with great focus and intent. His works were in no way haphazard, but carefully calculated in their design, the thought behind them, and the emotional effect that Kandinsky hoped to achieve.
I was surprised that Kandinsky was a sort of early existentialist, particularly in his feeling that the soul of man was doomed to mediocrity and abasement, so long as materialism held sway over society. One might have viewed him as a happy Marxist, except that he really wasn't. In fact, he was careful to avoid being caught up in the sweeping changes that took place in his home country of Russia. For example, he refused to be subsumed in the tide of Social Realist art embraced by so many Russian artists during the early 1920's. He felt strongly enough about it that he left Russia (again - he had spent several years in Munich during his early career before returning to his motherland around the outbreak of The Great War) to move to Germany during the interwar years. Later, he moved to France only to witness the German occupation and hear of the destruction (back in Germany) of several of his paintings, which were considered decadent by the Nazi regime.
And somehow, amidst all of this, he and his art survived. Perhaps there was something to his strong feelings of spirituality that upheld him during these tumultuous years, where the world seemed to be falling to pieces all around him. Early in his career, he espoused spiritualism and even based his long essay "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" on "The Third Revelation," a twelfth-century occult text by Joachim von Fiore. In fact, Kandinsky and several of his early contemporaries felt that abstract art was the herald of a new age which would be ushered in by the artists who "led" society to greater heights of well-being, though they were, naturally, misunderstood prophets at the time.
Here again, Taschen has produced an inexpensive, erudite analysis of the artist and his work. Should you have a favorite artist, or are simply curious about a particular artist's work, you'll be hard-pressed to find such excellent texts as Taschen has produced. They are truly marvelous. I've always liked Kandinsky's art, but now I can much more fully appreciate it, both viscerally and intellectually. Think Kandinsky was a scheister? I dare you to read this work and continue to hold onto your mistaken belief. Look, read, and learn. After all, isn't that at least a part of why we read?
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