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Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Mosaic in S. Vitale, Ravenna
Victor and Heinrich Dunwegge: ”The Cruci?xion” (in the Alte
Pinakothek, Munich)
Albrecht Durer: ”The Descent from the Cross” (in the Alte
Pinakothek, Munich)
Raphael: ”The Canigiani Holy Family” (in the Alte Pinakothek,
Paul Cezanne: ”Bathing Women” (by permission of Messrs.
Bernheim -Jeune, Paris)
Kandinsky: Impression No. 4, ”Moscow” (1911)
”Improvisation No. 29 (1912)
”Composition No. 2 (1910)
”Kleine Freuden” (1913)
It is no common thing to ?nd an artist who, even if he be
willing to try, is capable of expressing his aims and ideals with
any clearness and moderation. Some people will say that any such
capacity is a ?aw in the perfect artist, who should ?nd his
expression in line and colour, and leave the multitude to grope
its way unaided towards comprehension. This attitude is a relic
of the days when ”l’art pour l’art” was the latest battle cry;
when eccentricity of manner and irregularity of life were more
important than any talent to the would-be artist; when every one
except oneself was bourgeois.
The last few years have in some measure removed this absurdity,
by destroying the old convention that it was middle -class to be
sane, and that between the artist and the outer-world yawned a
gulf which few could cross. Modern artists are beginning to
realize their social duties. They are the spiritual teachers of
the world, and for their teaching to have weight, it must be
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comprehensible. Any attempt, therefore, to bring artist and
public into sympathy, to enable the latter to understand the
ideals of the former, should be thoroughly welcome; and such an
attempt is this book of Kandinsky’s.
The author is one of the leaders of the new art movement in
Munich. The group of which he is a member includes painters,
poets, musicians, dramatists, critics, all working to the same
end–the expression of the SOUL of nature and humanity, or, as
Kandinsky terms it, the INNERE R KLANG.
Perhaps the fault of this book of theory–or rather the
characteristic most likely to give cause for attack–is the
tendency to verbosity. Philosophy, especially in the hands of a
writer of German, presents inexhaustible opportunities for vague
and grandiloquent language. Partly for this reason, partly from
incompet ence, I have not primarily attempted to deal with the
philosophical basis of Kandinsky’s art. Some, probably, will ?nd
in this aspect of the book its chief interest, but better service
will be done to the author’s ideas by leaving them to the
reader’s judgement than by even the most expert criticism.
The power of a book to excite argument is often the best proof of
its value, and my own experience has always been that those new