Cover image for Concerning the spiritual and the concrete in Kandinsky's art
Concerning the spiritual and the concrete in Kandinsky's art
Publication Information:
Stanford, California : Stanford University Press, 2014.



Physical Description:
1 online resource (281 pages, 24 pages of plates) : illustrations (some color)
General Note:
Includes index.
Local Note:
Electronic reproduction. Ann Arbor, MI : ProQuest, 2015. Available via World Wide Web. Access may be limited to ProQuest affiliated libraries.
Added Author:


Material Type
Shelf Number

On Order



This book examines the art and writings of Wassily Kandinsky, who is widely regarded as one of the first artists to produce non-representational paintings. Crucial to an understanding of Kandinsky's intentions is On the Spiritual in Art , the celebrated essay he published in 1911. Where most scholars have taken its repeated references to "spirit" as signaling quasi-religious or mystical concerns, Florman argues instead that Kandinsky's primary frame of reference was G.W.F. Hegel's Aesthetics , in which art had similarly been presented as a vehicle for the developing self-consciousness of spirit (or Geist , in German). In addition to close readings of Kandinsky's writings, the book also includes a discussion of a 1936 essay on the artist's paintings written by his own nephew, philosopher Alexandre Kojève, the foremost Hegel scholar in France at that time. It also provides detailed analyses of individual paintings by Kandinsky, demonstrating how the development of his oeuvre challenges Hegel's views on modern art, yet operates in much the same manner as does Hegel's philosophical system. Through the work of a single, crucial artist, Florman presents a radical new account of why painting turned to abstraction in the early years of the twentieth century.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wassily Kandinsky is one of many creative thinkers and practitioners whose ideas have been contracted into stereotypical assumption. In a deeply researched and closely argued text, rich in perceptive insights and information, Florman (Ohio State Univ.) clarifies Kandinsky's concept of spirit and recovers the significance of his overlooked later art production. In so doing, Florman extends her commendable corpus of studies on modernism, which includes Myth and Metamorphosis (2000), and adds much to readers' understanding of the artist's intellectual heritage and aesthetic objectives. She also enlarges the broad literature on the history of color theory, the significance of abstraction for the diverse modern movements, and the meaning of such terms as materiality and subjectivity in current critical discourse. The writing, while concentrated, is readable. The book is further enhanced by a sequence of 24 superb color plates and 49 monochrome illustrations of other pictorial work by Kandinsky and contemporaries, together with interesting diagrams. This well-produced volume includes a concise index and efficacious endnotes that also serve as the bibliography. --R. Windsor Liscombe, University of British Columbia