As a teasingly abstract Google doodle, with even less reference to the Google monicker than most, commemorates, Wassily Kandinsky, the great Russian-born modern artist and pioneering painter – and theorist – of abstract art, was born on December 16th, 1866 (quite a surprisingly early birth date considering his hugely advanced aesthetic). A cosmopolitan resident of many European nations, and longtime teacher at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky finally died in France after the Liberation in 1944, on a date close to his birth date: December 13th. He also fell under the influence of Madame Blavatsky‘s theosophy, which helped emancipate his art from material fidelity and seek purely abstract values as representations of spiritual forms.
As the painter of the Blue Rider which gave its name to an entire school of German modern art during his sojourn in Munich, Kandinsky was overtly one of modern painting’s founding masters, even though he didn’t take up art seriously until the age of 30. And Kandinsky’s key theoretical text, On the Spiritual in Art, dating from 1910, is in fact available online at Archive.org in a 1946 edition described as the “first complete English translation, with four full colour page reproductions, woodcuts and half tones,” translated as a collaborative effort “by American, English, Russian and German scholars,” and originally published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. As well as its usual online reading option, Archive.org gives its standard range of digital formats, including PDF, Kindle, and ePub. As well as a fascinating read in itself for any student or enthusiast of the arts, this text could also help some writers with precepts that can be applied to literature.
Our soul, after the long period of materialism, at last begins to awaken from despair born of unbelief, lack of purpose and ideals. This nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game, has not yet past. The awakening soul, while trying to free itself, is still under its domination. Only a feeble light flickers, like a tiny star, in the vast encircling darkness.
Or there are Kandinsky’s thoughts on the significant of color, which can be hugely valuable in poetry, for example.
The main effect produced by observing colour is a psychic effect. Here, the psychic power of colour takes hold, causing an emotional vibration. Thus, the first physical elementary force develops the channel, through which the deep, inner emotion reaches the soul.
And although the text is contemporaneous with Kandinsky’s more figurative works, rather than the truly abstract mosaic-like designs he produced in his later career, it distils the aesthetic that guided his entire subsequent development, and is a fascinating intellectual and artistic document of its time.