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Concerning the Spiritual in Art


ideas are at once most challenging and most stimulating which
come direct from their author, with no intermediate discussion.
The task undertaken in this Introduction is a humbler but per haps
a more necessary one. England, throughout her history, has shown
scant respect for sudden spasms of theory. Whether in politics,
religion, or art, she demands an historical foundation for every
belief, and when such a foundation is not forthcoming she may
smile indulgently, but serious interest is immediately withdrawn.
I am keenly anxious that Kandinsky’s art should not su?er this
fate. My pers onal belief in his sincerity and the fut ure of his
ideas will go for very little, but if it can be shown that he is
a reasonable development of what we regard as serious art, that
he is no adventurer striving for a momentary notoriety by the
strangeness of his beliefs, then there is a chance that some
people at least will give his art fair consideration, and that,
of these people, a few will come to love it as, in my opinion, it
deserves.
Post-Impressionism, that vague and much -abused term, is now
almost a household word. That the name of the movement is better
known than the names of its chief leaders is a sad misfortune,
largely caused by the over-rapidity of its introduction into
England. Within the space of two short years a mass of artists
from Manet to the most recent of Cubists were thrust on a public,
who had hardly realized Impressionism. The inevitable result has
2been complet e mental chaos. The tradition of which true Post -
Impressionism is the modern expression has been kept alive down
the ages of European art by scattered and, until lately,
neglected painters. But not since the time of the so-called
Byzantines, not since the period of which Giotto and his School
were the ?nal splendid blossoming, has the ”Symbolist” ideal in
art held general sway over the ”Naturalist.” The Primitive
Italians, like their predecessors the Primitive Greeks, and, in
turn, their predecessors the Egyptians, sought to express the
inner feeling rather than the outer reality.
This ideal tended to be lost to sight in the naturalistic revival
of the Renaissance, which derived its inspiration solely from
those periods of Greek and Roman art which were pre -occupied wit h
the expression of external reality. Although the all -embracing
genius of Michelangelo kept the ”Symbolist” tradition alive, it
is the work of El Greco that merits the complete title of
”Symbolist.” From El Greco springs Goya and the Spanish in?uence
on Daumier and Manet. When it is remembered that, in the
meantime, Rembrandt and his contemporaries, notably Brouwer, left
their mark on French art in the work of Delacroix, Decamps and
Courbet, the way will be seen clearly open to Cez anne and
Gauguin.
The phrase ”symbolist tradition” is not used to express any
conscious a?nity between the various generations of artists. As
Kandinsky says: ”the relationships in art are not necessarily
ones of out ward form, but are founded on inner sympathy of
meaning.” Sometimes, perhaps frequently, a similarity of outward
form will appear. But in tracing spiritual relationship only
inner meaning must be taken into account.
There are, of course, many people who deny that Primitive Art had
an inner meaning or, rather, that what is called ”archaic
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