Cover image for Paths to the absolute : Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newman, Rothko, and Still
Paths to the absolute : Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newman, Rothko, and Still
Publication Information:
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, c2000.
Physical Description:
240 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm.
Bollingen series ; XXXV, 48

A.W. Mellon lectures in the fine arts ; 1997
Mondrian and the architecture of the future -- Malevich and the ascent into ether -- Kandinsky and the sound of colour -- Pollock and the search for a symbol -- Newman, Rothko, Still and the reductive image -- Newman, Rothko, Still and the abstract sublime.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book ND458.5.A37G65 2000 1

On Order



From Mondrian's bold geometric forms to Kandinsky's use of symbols to Pollock's "dripped paintings," the richly diverse movement of abstract painting challenges anyone trying to make sense of either individual works or the phenomenon as a whole. Applying his insights as an art historian and a painter, John Golding offers a unique approach to understanding the evolution of abstractionism by looking at the personal artistic development of seven of its greatest practitioners. He re-creates the journey undertaken by each painter in his move from representational art to the abstract--a journey that in most cases began with cubism but led variously to symbolism, futurism, surrealism, theosophy, anthropology, Jungian analysis, and beyond. For each artist, spiritual quest and artistic experimentation became inseparable. And despite their different techniques and philosophies, these artists shared one goal: to break a path to a new, ultimate pictorial truth.

The book first explores the works and concerns of three pioneering European abstract painters--Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky--and then those of their American successors--Pollock, Newman, Rothko, and Still. Golding shows how each painter sought to see the world and communicate his vision in the purest or most expressive form possible. For example, Mondrian found his way into abstraction through a spiritual response to the landscape of his native Holland, Malevich through his apprehension of the human body, Kandinsky through a blend of religious mysticism and symbolism. Line and color became the focus for many of their creative endeavors. In the 1940s and 50s, the Americans raised the level of pictorial innovation, beginning most notably with Pollock and his Jung-inspired concept of action.p> Golding makes a powerful case that at its best and most profound, abstract painting is heavily imbued with meaning and content. Through a blend of biography, art analysis, and cultural history, Paths to the Absolute offers remarkable insights into how a sense of purpose is achieved in painting, and how abstractionism engaged with the intellectual currents of its time.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Who's afraid of abstract art? Many, many people, it seems. Seldom has an art movement been so misunderstood, yet been so instrumental in shaping the direction of art in so many ways. In this series of lectures, distinguished art historian and critic Golding brings to life an often-disconcerting subject. Studded throughout with colorful illustrations, Golding shows the progression of modern, abstract art from its roots in expressionism and Fauvism to its postmodern expressions. The artists featured--Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Newman, Rothko, and Still--are all exemplars of a specific turn taken in the development of abstract art. Each chapter illustrates that turn and approachably describes each artist's artistic growth and influence on the future. Golding clearly communicates the artists' visions, the vision of abstract art, and why it's so important to understand the abstract movement in relation to where art is going. Golding's excellent work brings the reader from an artistic cloud of unknowing into expert mode with beauty and precision. --Michael Spinella

Library Journal Review

Well-known artist and historian Golding offers a series of lectures concerning the beginnings of abstraction and 20th-century painting. In this account, Mondrian, Malevich, and Kandinsky represent the early Europeans who refocused artistic vision toward the absolute. The big American namesDPollock, Newman, Rothko, and StillDbuilt on this vision and made great strides toward the sublime in their art. While each chapter centers on a different artist, Golding focuses throughout on meaning in abstraction, and plentiful reproductions (many in color) help to give substance to the text. No book covering the start and spread of abstract art is accepted as the standard, yet a lot of what Golding says is not news. Still, beginning students of abstract art may be well served by Golding's book, as it does give a good feeling for the process artists have gone through to create a body of work in this style. Recommended for larger general libraries and libraries specializing in art history.DNadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 7
1 Mondrian and the architecture of the futurep. 9
2 Malevich and the ascent into etherp. 47
3 Kandinsky and the sound of colourp. 81
Pollock and the search for a symbolp. 113
Newman, Rothko, Still and the reductive imagep. 153
Newman, Rothko, Still and the abstract sublimep. 195
Notes on the textp. 233
List of illustrations and sourcesp. 235
Indexp. 239