Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology

By Francis Frascina; Charles Harrison et al. | Go to book overview

23 The Beauty of Non-Objectivity

Hilla Rebay

[...] There is no representation of objects, nor any meaning of subjects in these paintings of free invention called non-objective art. They represent a unique world of their own, as creations with a lawful organization of colors, variation of forms, and rhythm of motif. These combinations when invented by a genius can bring the same joy, relaxation, elevation and animation of spiritual life as music. Knowledge of point and counterpoint never was necessary for anyone to enjoy the beauty of music. Nor is it necessary in painting to realize the constructional law to feel pleasure in non-objective masterpieces. Everyone reacts differently to melodies and keys in music. The general response to the themes and keys of color in different non‐ objective paintings is of similar variety. Upon further acquaintance the appeal of a masterpiece attracts concentration which grows into animated enjoyment.

Painting, like music, has nothing to do with reproduction of nature, nor interpretation of intellectual meanings. Whoever is able to feel the beauty of colors and forms has understood non-objective painting.

Beauty of appearance takes its way to the heart through the medium of intuitive intelligence called spirit. Intellect prevents spontaneous reaction to this most elevating joy which sound or vision can give. To be able to penetrate further into the singular worlds of these paintings is to realize their lawfulness, their cosmic inner order, which, if understood, may increase the faculty to enjoy them. But this experience and knowledge is necessary only to those who want to use the fundamentals of creation to become creators of art themselves. Non-objectivity has beauty and spirit combined. Everyone who gives time to it is able to get its blessing, which is refreshment of the soul and elevation into the beyond.

Spirit begins where materialism ends. The clear statement of absolute painting and pure creation in a cosmic sense shatters the illusion of worldly realism in representative painting. Viewpoints have changed as creators discovered world visions and turned away from contemplation of earth. Materialistic inspiration can never start creation, but intuition leads to it.

Non-objective art need not be understood or judged. It must be felt and it will influence those who have eyes for the loveliness of forms and colors. Though we all enjoy sunshine, neither this joy nor the sun's shine have a meaning unless our intellect invents one. Neither a flower nor the moon can be criticized. They would never change themselves. The seed of the flower will continue to produce exactly the same kind despite criticism. It follows the intuitive order of creation. So does the non-objective masterpiece of art. It can be liked or disliked, but its existence is final and its perfection is beautiful.

The positive order in a non-objective picture is no accident. The first accord defines the key of color and form, which has to be followed to solution. The

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Source: Solomon R. Guggenheim collection of non-objective paintings, exhibition catalogue, 8-28 February 1937, Philadelphia, pp. 4-13. One illustration has been omitted.

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