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- Art and abstraction
- Obrist/Worringer/Marc: Abstraction and Empathy on the Eve of World War One
- Worringer-Abstraction and Empathy-Foreword pt 2
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Art and abstraction
Rejecting the idea that feelings elicited by form are related to anything learned from observation, he wrote: "Forms and colors release in us a particular feeling effect without any mediation. We must only learn to allow them to become conscious in ourselves" Learning to see meant recognizing that vision was linked to a larger network of senses within the perceiving subject, all connected to processes of emotion and imagination.
Having grown up in Weimar with private tutors, Obrist was well aware of Goethe's and other Romantic theories that linked aesthetics and natural science. Stacy Hand has shown how he was attracted throughout his artistic career to contemporary proponents of a Lebensphilosophie, who drew on current biological and psychological theories.
Obrist believed that an alliance of science and art could produce images that expressed fundamental structures and forces within nature. Thus, he was fascinated by crockets, the stylized carvings of curled plant forms flaring from Gothic spires, seeing them as the release of a surplus of vital force residing in architecture that gives the spire the sense of Konturen V 7 growth within the natural world that inspired it Waenerberg Stimulus was also taken from photographs collected from magazines, provoking drawings that explore the interactions of natural forces and materials Hand,"Feuer," One of these Figure 4 , which was envisioned as serving humans, cattle, dogs, and birds, showed his interest in communicating the commonality of animal life.
Another Figure 5 , which he designated as a spring-fountain for a park or castle courtyard, struck one commentator as addressing the relation of plant growth to flowing water, but also the transmutability of water between its liquid and frozen states:Constant drops hollow the stone and sharp angles are thus absurd.
Take the formal structure of water itself, its tuberous icicles, its snow stars and Konturen V 8 its layers frozen to each other, thus we have the fundamental essence of the best of Obrist's fountains.
Doesn't the castle fountain have the effect of a magnificent ice sculpture? In which the applied ornament does not seem to be copies of various plants themselves, but of the fantastic forms that ice tends to give them? When the new designs were shown in Berlin in , one reviewer remarked how Obrist, rather than retaining the allegorical figures of other contemporary fountains, had created new abstract sculptural values through the poetic contrast of the weight and rigidity of rock with the flowing, erosive power of water.
Obrist, himself, wrote at this time:An undreamed-of wealth of possibilities arise for an eye that has learned to see the sculptural forms in nature, which has learned to enlarge the compact power of buds, the roundness and ribs of seeds from their microscopic smallness to meter-high forms. All forms of tactile feeling, the feeling of smoothness, of coarseness, of hardness, of softness, of elasticity, of rigidity, of flexibility, of swollenness, of leanness, of roundness, and of angularity are aroused by forms remodeled from nature, and sculptural architectural ornament awaits, like Sleeping Beauty, its resurrection.
No: the human nude is not the beginning and end of sculpture. Obrist,"Neue, However, as Jugendstil fell out of fashion, less attention was paid to Obrist's works -a shift in values associated with the Third Applied Art Exhibition, held in Dresden in , and the formation shortly thereafter of the Deutscher Werkbund, an association formed to promote a new, industrially-based design aesthetic.
While some burial monuments were commissioned during the period before World War I, scholars know little about Obrist's sole realization of a major fountain, since basic resources about his work were destroyed when a bomb struck his house in The fountain was likely self-funded, carved in Munich, Konturen V 9 and when exhibited there in late it provoked a journal article from Henry van de Velde, a designer who had launched art nouveau in Belgium.
Dismissing the depiction of tritons and frogs in fountains during an age "when massive blocks of steel were forged by power hammers," van de Velde praised Obrist's creation of "something from nothing" -an "inspiring manifestation of life," embodied in "this budding and effervescing mass of stone" with its "sequence of gestures directing the water's course" The fountain certainly displays a powerful tension between the downward plunge of the three toothed, thistle-like tongues of the inner construction and the rise of the three external buttresses, which bear water spouts on crystal-like forms at the ribs' break toward their center join, where the main spout rises from a bud-like form.
The inorganic is contrasted and merged with the organic -crystalline structures with the hypocotyl bendings of plant growth. Published response to these works was largely positive but meager, Movement being described as a "plaster rebus" that dispensed with any real or ornamental reference, wanting, "almost like a Futurist, only to establish the flaming rhythm of enigmatic, fantastic forms" Osborn.
Both fluid and frozen, the sculpture is indeed a puzzle of phantasmic forms, similar to those that the commentator had previously associated with water freezing as it flowed over plant and rock forms. Recalling a photograph of a fountain encased in ice that was cut from a journal and has survived in the Obrist archive, Movement's angular, crystalline structures mix with organic curves of sprouting growth to suggest a complex range and metamorphosis of forms within nature.
One of the students who enrolled in was Marta Schmitz, an artist from Cologne who was to marry Wilhelm Worringer in Grebing Worringer had arrived in Munich in , at the height of Jugendstil, and he was certainly aware of the theories behind its empathic abstraction, since he mixed with writers who were associated with its artists while Paul Stern, his closest friend, had written a dissertation on empathy theory.
Worringer's intent, announced on his first page, was to focus on the aesthetics of artistic style rather than natural beauty. He connected the latter to Lipps' theory of empathy, which, he said, could not be applied to large areas of art history and would serve as a foil to his own theory that artistic creation grew out of two distinct modes of artistic volition -empathy and abstraction, which were in unceasing disputation and intermixture. Empathy was, he argued, the artistic volition of peoples who were content in the organic world and found expression in naturalism.
Arising with the Greeks and Romans, it diminished during the Early Christian and Medieval eras before emerging again in the Renaissance. Truth to reality came to be seen as its goal and literary content gradually grew to dominate its formal means, until the present condition, which he described in the following way:Now, for the first time, the outer world begins to live and it receives all its life from man, who now anthropomorphizes all its inner essence, all its inner forces. This sensation of oneself-in-things naturally sharpens the feeling for the inexpressibly beautiful content of organic form, and paths are revealed to artistic volition, the paths of an artistic naturalism, for which the natural model merely serves as a substratum to the will to form that is guided by its feeling for the organic.
It is a poverty-stricken convention to place animals into landscape as seen by me; instead, we should contemplate the soul of the animal to divine its way of sight. This observation should not be idle speculation, but leads us to the sources of art" Marc, "Aufzeichnungen," He continued, saying that there are artists of the present, like Kandinsky and Picasso, who project their inner world as the subject of their work. Others, who are naturalists, paint the object, while Marc says he wishes to paint the "predicate," by imagining how the animal feels the world.
Through the course of his paintings seem to have been guided, in part, by this horse's turn and the landscape's curves, which lead our eyes around and out of the picture's limited space, may be formal terms of the "predicate" that Marc sought: a behavioral scientist has alerted us to the fact that the placement of a horse's eyes, along with its movable ears and sensitive nostrils, provide for a more panoramic and extended sensory field than our own, one highly adapted to life on open ground within a grazing herd.
During Marc was also thinking about how the human image might fit within this "animalized painting," as well as making contacts with avant-garde artistic circles in Munich. He saw the first and second exhibitions of the New Artists' Association of Munich and responded to negative reviews of the second with an appreciation that was published in October of and led to his active participation in the group.
He praised the continuing effort to "spiritualize 'matter,' to which impressionism had held so tightly with its teeth," but wrote that what was really promising was "that their pictures contain highly valuable examples of spatial organization, rhythm and color theory in addition to the most highly Within a year, humans had almost disappeared from his paintings; Marc wrote that he came to find them "ugly," but his Enchanted Mill, which was painted approximately mid, does focus on civilization's use of natural energy Figure Water pours over a mill-wheel from a race, the channeling by humans of a stream that enters below, water from each pooling across the painting's bottom, at the right edge of which two animals drink.
Birds bathe in the curling torrent, whose dynamic unites with the animal world and contrasts with the more crystalline forms found in the buildings above the wheel and the began to set his animals in a shallow spatial grid of transparent colors, a means of intermixing figures with ground and suggesting that the world was a field of moving energy.
Believing that experimental physics had radically altered humanity's understanding of matter, this adoption of a crystalline pictorial space must have helped him believe that he had moved closer to the basic spirit of all art, which he defined in as the yearning for undivided being, for liberation from the sensory deception of our ephemeral life. Its greatest goal is to dissolve the whole system of our limited feelings, to reveal an unearthly being that lives behind everything, to smash the mirror of life so that we look into being.
Marc,"Zur Kritik," When sent a photograph in April of The Cardiff Team Figure 15 , Delaunay's most recent work, however, Marc was unenthusiastic, labeling it "the purest impressionism" Marc,"To Delaunay," For me the result is astonishing: a significant preponderance also as regards quality of abstract forms that speak to us only as forms, almost without any figurative associations and beyond representational concerns I know full well, of course, that this distinction doesn't really exist -all forms are also memories of something.
As far as my own work is concerned I realize now in what a confused manner I used to go about painting my pictures; I would work from two more or less totally separate starting points and would carry on painting until these appeared to merge -sadly only "appeared. Among them I'd unhesitatingly count Delaunay. The extended frieze format relates to the admired Window in Three Parts, as do the diagonal shafts of colored light that lend dynamism and space to the horizontal grid. One's eyes find echoing abstract forms throughout the painting that suggest a unity underlying diversity.
Also present were several paintings entitled simply Composition, which were dated and likely done at year's end. Their generalized titles were new, as was their degree of abstraction. Through the course of the year, until his call to a field artillery unit in September , Marc created not only some of his most well known animal paintings, but also a series of abstractions.
Playing Forms appears to have been an important transitional work in his move to abstraction, its format being similar to Stables and having a tripartite structure that from left to right employs forms that suggest inorganic structures, animal, and plant life Fig.
Appearing rather programmatic in character, it seems an effort to communicate the "yearning for undivided being" that he had identified as the goal of all art. The following is from Aphorism Leibniz already had wanted to recognize that material is "also" spirit. But it has required a long road in order to recognize that the world is only spirit, is only psyche and the magical natural laws signify only our second, more spiritual, deeper form and formula for the psyche, for our own psyche.
The laws of nature are the tool of our second, better insight, our second sight, with which we observe the appearances of the world today. However, Marc's interest in such ideas about the transmutability of inorganic and organic life certainly drew as well on the writings of Novalis, who believed in a vitalism that permitted interspecial metamorphosis and whose literary works were in Marc's library Hoberg,"Psyche," and Eschenburg.
Some scholars consider Broken Forms to be the last painting done before Marc left for the war Figure How it acquired its title is unknown, but its wording is similar to Cheerful Forms, which was, with Playing Forms, one of two large abstract paintings that were shown in and titled for the large memorial exhibition given Marc by the Munich Free Secession in Fall One doesn't know if Marc actually associated "brokenness" with the forms of this painting, but if so, the angular black form thrusting into the pictorial center from lower left seems a candidate.
However, it is penetrated by a prismatic vertical ray, which illuminates a boiling multitude of small circular forms at lower center, their inchoate turbulence spinning off forms, which rise and uncurlmainly red on the left and blue on the right, colors that Marc had previously associated with matter and spirit in a letter to Macke Marc,"To Macke, 28 This boil of colors taking form reminds of Aphorism 54, which reads: "Through the desensualization and conquering of material, the primeval belief in color will increase to an ecstatic fervor and inwardness like the belief in God once did with the rejection of idols" Painting and aphorism seem to reference a feeling state not unlike Worringer's highly poetic description of a Gothic cathedral's organic abstraction.
Indeed, there are many sentiments expressed in the Aphorisms that remind of Worringer's ideas, for Marc clearly looked to the Gothic as an era of sacred knowledge that anticipated possibilities in his own time, writing the following in Aphorism The first sacred step of European cognition was the belief of the Gothic person, who saw heaven, the heaven of the legends of the saints and who felt the stigmata of his savior burn his body and built the giant cathedrals according to the images of his conception of heaven.
Our belief is the second sight, the second step of cognition, the exact science. Every belief gives birth to form. Our belief in knowledge will have its great form in the twentieth century. This psychological condition compelled the removal of depicted objects from the arbitrariness of the external world, to eternalize them by approximation to abstract forms and to thus find a point of tranquility and refuge from appearances.
Space and volume were suppressed in favor of what Worringer termed the geometric-crystalline. While he gave various examples of this abstract style, his primary one was Northern animal style of the first millennium A. Figure 6 , although he hesitated to call it abstract because, despite its purely linear, inorganic basis, it contained restless life within the tangle of line.
He continued:Here we have the decisive formula for the whole medieval North. Here are the elements, which later on, as we shall show, culminate in Gothic. The need for empathy of this inharmonious people does not take the nearestat-hand path to the organic, because the harmonious motion of the organic is not sufficiently expressive for it; it needs rather that uncanny pathos which attaches to the animation of the inorganic.
Confronted with a Gothic cathedral Figure 7 , he asked, how could one say whether its soul, the mysterious inner power of its nature, is organic or abstract? Rather, he answered, the mechanically abstract laws of construction have become a living movement of forces. Only in this heightened movement of forces, which in their intensity of expression surpass all organic motion, was Northern man able to gratify his need for expression, which had been intensified to the point of pathos by inner disharmony.
Gripped by the frenzy of these mechanical forces, which thrust out at all their terminations and aspire toward heaven in a mighty crescendo of orchestral music, he feels himself convulsively drawn aloft in blissful vertigo, raised high above himself into the infinite.
Verticality was counterbalanced by horizontal accentuations, unlike the elimination of all horizontal divisions in German churches where "the Gothic need of spiritual expression found a path for itself and spiritualized the materiality by a delicate process of dematerialization" Simmel and others led to it being published by Reinhard Piper in The book received a particularly enthusiastic reception from artists and art historians in the Rhineland, both because of Worringer's personal connection with Cologne and the region's intense interest in German medieval art.
In January of , Emmy Worringer, his sister, helped found the Gereon Club, a venue for exhibitions, readings, and lectures about contemporary art and literature in Cologne -the first event being an evening lecture, held in July of that year, being Worringer himself on Abstraction and Empathy.
Immediately, August Macke, a young painter in nearby Bonn, wrote to Franz Marc, a fellow member of the New Artists' Association of Munich, asking if he knew the book and saying that they could make use of it for promotion of their own art Both artists would have significant exhibitions in Cologne during the years before World War I.
Young art historians and museum directors in Cologne also sensed a connection between Worringer's ideas and recent artistic developments and assisted in the creation of a modern Gothic chapel at the Sonderbund Exhibition, held in Cologne from May to September of
Obrist/Worringer/Marc: Abstraction and Empathy on the Eve of World War One
But even though the two books both generally deal with the topic of art and spirituality, they approach the subject in significantly different ways. Kandinsky lays out clearly in his book the ideas he developed about the relationship between music and spirituality, and telegraphs his intent to find a way to express that same relationship through abstract visual art. Worringer does not write about the connection between visual art and music, but he does address how abstraction relates to spirituality in general. And he addresses the biases that people had towards abstract art at the turn of the 20th Century. The prevailing attitude at that time was that abstract art deserved less respect than representational art. Most critics, teachers, and curators believed that only artists who did not have the competency to perfectly copy nature turned to abstraction.
Worringer, Wilhelm, [Abstraktion und Einfiihlung. English]. Abstraction and empathy: a contribution to the psychology of style I by. Wilhelm Worringer.
Worringer-Abstraction and Empathy-Foreword pt 2
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Wilhelm Worringers landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in , has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but on generations of creative writers and intellectuals isMoreWilhelm Worringers landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in , has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but on generations of creative writers and intellectuals is almost unprecedented.
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Dhika Himura rated it liked it Sep wilhelm worringer abstraction and empathy, Their spiritual dread of space, their instinct for empsthy relativity of all that is, did not stand, as with primitive peoples, before cognition, but above cognition. Dee, Publisher, Chicago. PDF The inconsistent definition of empathy has had a negative impact on both research and practice. The aim of this article is to review and critically appraise a range of definitions of empathy. Just as the urge to empathy as a. Reprint of. Alasdair Ekpenyong rated it it was amazing Jan 06, Recollection of the lifeless form of a pyramid or of the suppression of life that is manifested, for instance, in Byzantine mosaics tells us at once that here the need for empathy, which for obvious reasons always tends toward the organic, cannot possibly have determined artistic volition.
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Second, this conception of space is related to the Th. Third, the paper integrates this aesthetics in a model that conceives form as force Goethe. After all, this notion responds also to a conception of art in terms of space and affectivity. He defines it as a redistribution of the sensible that correlates visuality and language in various ways. The idea is that historical epochs adjust words to images differently: while in some epochs the image is a medium that denotes an idea, in others the image can be enjoyed as an independent object.
Wilhelm Worringer's landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in , has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but also for generations of creative writers and intellectuals is almost unprecedented. By contrast, the urge to abstraction, as exemplified by Egyptian, Byzantine, primitive, or modern expressionist art, articulates a totally different response to the world: it expresses man's insecurity. Thus in historical periods of anxiety and uncertainty, man seeks to abstract objects from their unpredictable state and transform them into absolute, transcendental forms. Abstraction and Empathy also has a sociological dimension, in that the urge to create fixed, abstract, and geometric forms is a response to the modern experience of industrialization and the sense that individual identity is threatened by a hostile mass society.
New German Critique 1 February ; 44 1 : — The polemical diagnosis claims that because the arts are no longer able to express a collective subjectivity, they have become socially irrelevant. In a more redemptive gesture, Worringer then proposes that sensuous criticism of past art will replace art itself, since criticism now channels Germany's creative energy and serves the former social functions of art. This article historically contextualizes this new form of criticism as an intervention into the Methodenstreit methodological debate and the field of social energetics, two crucial discussions around on the future of the humanities. The article also shows that Worringer's new criticism, which takes the form of the Denkbild thought-image , attempts to fuse the discursive with the sensuous and visual. It thereby aims to reverse a modern trend toward increasingly abstract or conceptual thought.