Dictionary of Abstract Painting: With a History of Abstract Painting

By Michel Seuphor | Go to book overview

NOTES
(1)
There is also a dispute over terminology which has caused much ink to be wasted. Van Doesburg was always starting hares or looking for trouble, and began it in 1930 when he suggested concrete, instead of abstract which until then had been considered satisfactory. For a while Hans Arp also preferred the term concrete, and Kandinsky came out in its favour in 1938. Max Bill became its greatest advocate and through his influence it was adopted in South America and Italy.

Some years ago in New York Miss Hilla Rebay somewhat fanatically insisted on the expression non-objectivism. This inevitably caused some confusion in the outlook of some of the young American painters, especially as some American critics apply the term abstract to works which are not so (see Thomas B. Hess, Abstract Painting).

Even in Paris there are painters who make a specious distinction between the words abstract and non-figurative.

We have no intention of being caught up in these quibbles. On the authority of the first abstract painters we have adopted the simplest and most generally accepted term.

(2)
In making this distinction no attention should be paid to the title given by a painter to his work. An obvious stiff-life can easily be called composition of even abstraction without the title making it any less figurative, while an abstract canvas can be called Joie de vivre or Trafalgar Square without containing the slightest hint of a story or a landscape. A boy can be baptised Marie without being turned into a girl.
(3)
This is true of Klee, Miró and often Picasso. Sometimes Picasso will add to his abstract forms -- rather casually, according to all accounts -- a few brush-strokes which suggest a face or figure. We know that for Picasso"there is no abstract art". He ought to say or perhaps means "there ought not to be any abstract art".
(4)
Baudelaire in L'Art romantique"There is no line of colour in nature. It is man who creates line and colour. They are two abstractions whose dignity comes from a common origin . . . Line and colour both make us think and dream; the pleasures resulting from them are of a different nature, though equal to ordinary nature, and absolutely independent of the picture's subject."

Flaubert, Correspondance, 1852: "Perhaps beauty will become a sentiment for which mankind has no further use, and art will be something half-way between algebra and music."

(5)
I have been told that in his research into abstraction Kandinsky was influenced by a Lithuanian painter, M. K. Ciurlionis, who died in 1911. This painter composed, from 1904 onwards, abstract paintings which are often characterised by arabesques being used together with geometrical shapes. He also painted some dream-landscapes or dreamscapes, full of symbolic references, which have certain affinities to Kandinsky's more romantic works. A substantial exhibition of Ciurlionis' paintings was held in Moscow in the year of his death. In 1916 W. Ivanov published a book in Russian about Ciurlionis, published by Mussaget, Moscow. Mme Charmion von Wiegand regards Ciurlionis as the first abstract painter ( Eneyclopaedia of Art, New York 1946).

-85-

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Dictionary of Abstract Painting: With a History of Abstract Painting
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Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Foreword *
  • Contents *
  • Part I - History of Abstract Painting *
  • Notes 85
  • Appendices 89
  • Chronological Table of Abstract Art 105
  • Part II - Dictionary of Abstract Painting 115
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