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FAH246 Lecture 4

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University of Toronto St. George
Mark Cheetham

January 29 FAH246 Lecture 4 ▯ ▯ ▯ Kandinsky ▯ • Kandinsky’s Über das Geistige in der Kunst - popular book in the early 20th Century • He was very involved in music (Opera, the yellow sound), and being able to put the visual and the audible together. • Saw himself as a sort of “religious night”, who was going to lead society. Not necessarily vanity, but more so a mission. Wanted abstraction to be a way of transporting the viewer somewhere else. 
 ▯ Kupka ▯ *The First Step 1909 - suggestive. First step toward what? 
 Czech artist, spent all his time in Paris, interested in music and astronomy. This work puts these two things together. Planetary movement in different phases, but it isn’t strictly representational. First step - a retroactive title? 
 These artists were aware of how radically new their art was. 
 *Vertical planes #1, 1912 - 
 *Amorpha Fugue in Two Colors 1912 - Experiments with manipulating placement. No one really knows who the first person was to draw abstract figures. ▯ Couverture de L’assiette au beurre 7 Mai, 1904, by Kupka - anarchist journal. 
 While he was painting abstract works like the previous ones listed, he was politically committed to depict art such as this. He was doing a lot of different art at the same time. He was constantly doing illustrations for different journals. Did a whole series on money, l’argent... personifying money. Criticizes using the French constitution. 
 (Emphasis on money is undercutting fraternity. Liberty is not really close to hand...) ▯ Mondrian 
 In Netherlands during WW1, wrote a lot about his work . 
 *The Blue Tree, 1908. 
 The artists followed similar paths... both him and Kandinsky thought increasingly of abstracting landscape elements. The blue tree is kind of representational but not really. 
 His work also has a typical spiritual quality, sort of like Kandinsky. 
 *Evolution, 1911. 
 Decreasingly female form - evolution from Earthly realm to something else. Reads like a triptych.
 LEft hand side - recongnizeable flowers, she is in a trance. Her anatomy, though simplified, you can tell what she is.
 Right - more geometrical, diamond shape. Flowers changed, become more symbolic. January 29 Jaw is more square and masculine. 
 Centre - head is tilted forward again. Giant eyes opened in a hypnotic, mesmerized sense. ▯ *Composition #3 with trees 1912-13
 *Composition 1 1913 ▯ About all avant-garde artists at this time go through some sort of cubist phase. This was the avant-garde in 1910’s. 
 These compositions are his radicalization of cubism. Still thinking about trees, but not nearly as representational. The intersection of lines provide a cosmic sense of space, a vibrating quality. 
 Irony - obviously cubist, but you wouldn’t ever see transitional cubists moving in this direction. 
 *Composition with grey, red, yellow and blue 1920 
 A further simplification of vocabulary. Still uses grey (which he will eventually get rid of). Intricate interlocking of forms. This is a painting he would call “plastic”. He tried to balance the parts to create both dynamism and equilibrium. Found it was hard to make the grey as alive as the yellow and the red. One philosopher said - try to imagine a grey flame. 
 His solution eventually was to do away with grey all together. 
 *Composition No 3 with red, yellow and blue 1935
 -full on neo-plastic painting. A very identifiable style. Extremely fine-tuned. Notice the lines are all of different thickness and weight, which makes a difference to the optical effect. 
 Broke it down to the minimal essentials to a 2-D work. 
 Would eventually stop using black. Articulated balance to go beyond official formalism. ▯ *Image of Mondrian’s studio, NYC 1944. 
 He was obsessed with the idea of how to get a diagonal into an image without breaking the rule of right-angles. Solution - turned his canvas. Color squares on the wall... he was not just interested on what was happening on the canvas, but also in his immediate environment and societal relationships. 
 Famous chair by Reitveld - “Red and Blue Chair” 1918-23
 simple linearity, a lot of Mondrian colors and shapes, but takes it all into the world. Abstract design can be taken out into society. 
 Left - original
 Right, by a group of Toronto artists - “infected Mondrian”. For him, green was bad, a sign of uncontrollable nature. Never used green in neo-plastic works. A literal invasion of a body of thought. ▯ January 29 Bauhaus School, Germany 
 After WW1, Germany was especially devastated. They had a failed revolution in 1919. 
 There was a sense of radical, social change in the air. The Bauhaus were not literal revolutionaries, but it was a revolutionary school, seeking to better society through design. New to teaching, taught a collaboration of different facets of art. Artists were taught every kind of art in their foundation courses.
 Walter Gropius (founder) - managed the school with an iron first (although it was was about liberalization). Strict curriculum, produced amazing (mostly male) artists. ▯ *Kandinskey;s “At Rest” is an exempla of his teaching. 
 His spiritual work became extremely unpopular in the soviet union and got forced out of the teaching system. Rodchenko fired him and he ended up migrating to Germany and then later moved to Paris. ▯ Klee
 Taught at Bauhaus Gave up music talent of music, also very interested in poet
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