Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky on theory and praxis

There are also aestheticians who write about an art which was condemned yesterday. In these books, they remove the barriers over which art has most recenty stepped and setup up new ones. They do not notice that they are erecting barriers not in front of art, but behind it. If they do, they write fresh books and hastily set the barriers a little further on. This process will go on until it is realized that the most advanced principle of aesthetics can never be of value to the future, but only to the past. No theory can be laid down for those things that lie in the realm of the immaterial. That which has no material existence cannot be materially crystallized. That which belongs to the spirit of the future can only be realized in feeling, and the talent of the artist is the only road to feeling. Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the crystallized ideas of the past.
Wassily Kandinsky in Concerning the Spiritual in Art: and painting in particular, (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, Inc., 1947), p. 31. Originally published as Über das Geistige in der Kunst, (1912). Translated by Francis Golffing, Michael Harrison and Ferdinand Ostertag from the first English-language translation by Michael T. H. Sadler with Kandinsky’s corrections and additions to the original German-language text supplied by Nina Kandinsky.

First English-language Translation

There are also philosophers of aesthetic who write profound books about an art which was yesterday condemned as nonsense. In writing these books they remove the barriers over which art has most recently stepped and set up new ones which are to remain for ever in the places they have chosen. They do not notice that they are busy erecting barriers, not in front of art, but behind it. And if they do notice this, on the morrow they merely write fresh books and hastily set their barriers a little further on. This performance will go on unaltered until it is realized that the most extreme principle of aesthetic can never be of value to the future, but only to the past. No such theory of principle can be laid down for those things which lie beyond, in the realm of the immaterial. That which has no material existence cannot be subjected to a material classification. That which belongs to the spirit of the future can only be realized in feeling, and to this feeling the talent of the artist is the only road. Theory is the lamp which sheds light on the petrified ideas of yesterday and of the more distant past.
Wassily Kandinsky in Concerning the Spiritual in Art, (Mineola, New York: Courier Dover Publications, 1977), p. 12. A reprint of the first English-language translation by Michael T. H. Sadler originally published as The Art of Spiritual Harmony, (London: Constable and Company Limited, 1914).

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"There are also philosophers of aesthetic"