Explaining art is a rather arduous task. Especially when you immerse yourself in what is one of the leading currents of the twentieth century. Since man took his first steps on earth, art has always been an immortal trace of his passage. We know this because through it we transport ourselves towards a personal or objective view of reality. Many years and many studies have passed before man discovered perspective and therefore cognition of space. The constant desire to represent our surroundings. Almost an obsession, that of wanting to represent with such fidelity the environment to us external. This for a long time was the most treated and revisited theme. Reality. The constant sign of wanting to imprint the material, the concrete and the real. And the non real? The ideal? And above all the abstract? Does the inner world that is enclosed within each of us, with all its nuances, have color or shape, or even line? In order to be able to answer this question, we turn to the current that has masterfully managed to find an answer to this profound question.
First of all, the very name of the artistic movement in question suggests the underlying meaning that it wants to express. Abstractism in fact comes from a latin word, that is abstactus which means “draw out”. First of all, the very name of the artistic movement in question suggests the underlying meaning it wants to express. Abstractionism derives from abstactus, which means “pull out”.A new and upsetting perspective of art. A movement that embodies the essence and that shows for the first time an innovative and impactful point of view. This current was born from the fundamental trait of one of the masters of this movement, Wassilj Kandinskij. It was in 1910 that he created the first painting that fits as the beginning of abstractionism. The work is a watercolor now preserved in the Centre Pompidou of Paris. An unrivalled work for its novelty. It is a composition devoid of research and accuracy. Now the visible world is far away, it is no longer part of the composition. The physical reality takes on a new meaning. The work is rich in colors scattered on the canvas in an indistinct manner, to mean a feeling of movement and lightness. In order to fully embody this initial idea, we must wait until the next year, since 1911 will be the year of the breakthrough. The shared idea of wanting to detach from figurative art to create new horizons arises in Germany, in Munich. Excellent minds that from various areas of the country, choose to abandon the way of figurative art that has outlined so many years of history. This change is certainly denoted by industrialization that leads to a general thought of innovation, movement and new energy. It was with the flourishing collaboration of Franz Marc and Kandinsky that the group called “The Blue Knight” (Der blaue reiter) arose. The name of the group depended on the works of Kandinsky and his collaborator Franz Marc. The first in fact was found that period to paint several knights, like the work of 1903 that has as title Knight blue and at the same time, the second, inspired by the blue, color that he considered the purest ever, the color of spirituality. Unfortunately, it was an union of artists that did not last long. Its duration lasted until 1914. With the outbreak of the First World War, the movement dispersed but fortunately this did not hinder the rising star of this current. In order to appreciate the many nuances and different perspectives of abstractionism, it is good to mention three artists who have indelibly marked this period.
Vasilij Vasil’evič Kandinskij
This first artisti is, without doubt, already mentioned, the father of the abstractionism. Kandinsky was born in 1866 in Moscow, son of Lidiya Tičeeva, of Russian origin and Vasily Kandinsky Silvestrovich of Siberian descent, a rich tea merchant. Growing up with an ethnic and cultural mix that certainly influenced his artistic career. After the divorce of his parents he moved to Odessa, to his aunt, where he received the first notions of drawing and grew spasmodically his curiosity for art, expressing it in the musical field with the study of the cello and the piano. Then it will be a trip to Venice with his parents, which he will later make, an experience that will fascinate him to the point of following the preferential path of art. Although he had studied law, as he finished his studies in 1893, with a doctoral degree, he decided to accept a job as director of the photographic section of a press center in Moscow. But over time, he realized how much his passion grew from year to year, to the point that in 1896, he refused a teaching post at the University of Dorpat in Estonia. And it is in this year that two events change his life.
Works and style
Monet becomes almost an obsession since during an exhibition of impressionists, the sight of the picture of the Haystacks at Giverny, shakes him, upsets him completely. In him a strong sense of similarity was born that made him approach more and more to an art that is no longer figurative. It is also said that listening to Wagner’s Loherengin at the Bolchoi’s Theatre for him was the moment when he decided to move to Munich to devote himself viscerally to art. He worked hard on this insight, offered by the Impressionists. The fine and in-depth analysis of images rich in environments and colors led him to publish in 1910, The Spiritual of Art, a cornerstone in the history of world art. In the text he theorizes how the combination of shapes and colors is the basis of the work of art, closely connected with the spiritual and what is experimenting in his painting, that is, the relationship between form and color, at the basis of abstraction. Kandinsky’s favorite themes in this period are violent and apocalyptic, and originate from popular religious images of Germany and Russia. In this first artistic phase it shows totally independent lines and forms, detached from space, in a totally personal and original order. It is good to reiterate that music was in parallel a great metaphor and inspiration for the artist, because just as in music it is possible to enjoy an abstract direct experience, so does art. Of this phase we remember works such as “Painted with black arch” realized in 1912. The work is an oil on canvas, now kept at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou. In this work the painter wants to highlight the contrast given by the contrast between hot areas and areas. In fact, colors are a symbol of deep and decisive meanings. Blue is a color that is used in the lightest shade for the sky and will be the protagonist of many other works. In the same way red is a fervid color sometimes associated with strength or violence, emblematic of powerful energy. In the composition here present these two colors meet, almost antipodes, in a point that is marked by a black arch. Although it may seem to an inexperienced or only well-nourished eye of the Renaissance that this art sins or does not aim right to the viewer, you have to identify without prejudice. We must project ourselves in the gaze of a man who for the first time in art has done works that are out of the box, able to deviate us but above all in the attempt to depict what is deeper in his inner self. The second artistic phase emerges with the flight to Switzerland following the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914. Until 1921, I had the opportunity to experiment more and more, alternating impressionism and romanticism, gradually starting an art more prone to geometrization, in order to create a process of simplification. With White Line, dated at 1920, we find the only white line that crosses the center of the composition. It is a pure tone that is never destined to merge with the rest of the work anyway. A partition that we could appreciate in parallel with the work of the black bow. It is perhaps unusual for Kandinsky at this stage of his career to leave such a contrasting element with the rest. The main background is green with gold at the bottom, and all four corners have squared edges offered by darker regions. It almost seems to look through a clearing inside a forest, a background so dense, marked by other shapes and lines. There are all kinds of different shapes fused together in a seemingly organic composition, similar to something you might see within science fiction. There are also three thin tips in red, with two in black intersecting them near the bottom of the canvas. While he always had a preference for abstraction, his work was still rooted in reality to this point where things have progressed, just as it is found in the careers of other artists who have taken a similar path, such as Mondrian and Miro. We discover that it is around the twenties and thirties that his art becomes increasingly clear in its originality. In fact, he was able to hold a workshop of frescoes that allowed him to greatly expand his ideas. Now, in addition to the geometrizing address, we approach an art full of details. Geometric elements become more defined , but above all they have a main role. If you think of the Composition VIII, dating back to 1923, now preserved at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This is how we summarize, all his thought of this phase. In the composition, triangles, circles and lines abound. Particular emphasis is given to the purple, black and red circle on the top left and to the large wedge that vertically cuts the center of the painting. In addition to focusing on color, you need to focus on geometry. As already mentioned, the colors have a very deep value and also the mathematical figures take on a mainly psychological value. Triangular lines represent tension, horizontal lines represent a feeling of calm, circular lines represent movement, and so on. Although the composition differs from the perspective and from everything related to spatial study, it has a patina of harmony that creates a sustained balance. The feeling is comparable to listening to a symphony that in the same way is a rich and detailed composition but with the right attention, becomes a masterpiece. Towards the thirties and forties , we have a return that promises to be directed towards the concrete and a little moredistant from the abstract. In fact, at this moment he returns to Paris, as if he wanted to express all the experience he had in Monaco and the geometric period. Defined by himself as a period comparable to “a picturesque fairy tale”. A work such as the Blue Sky, made in 1940, shows the introduction of organic shapes that replace the rigid geometric shapes. The painting, made in the year of the Nazi occupation of France, is almost a manifesto of the painting of the last phase, starting from the choice of color, the blue preferred by the artist. What else can be added of a man who has synthesized color, shape and movement over a career full of evolutions and influences. From the impressionists and germans cultural salons, to France, which did not fully accept his original look but it was also thanks to the solitude that the metamorphosis of his style took place. Coming to grasp soft and subtle colors. France will host him until the end of his days, which took place on 13 December 1944.
Red Spot II is an oil painting on canvas made in 1921. The composition of the work comes from the combination of number of lines and bright colors that capture the attention of the viewer. A strong contrast emerges from the left corner where there are mainly white and black against the side of the picture that shines for its bright colors. For the first time there are some dark circles, as a new geometric element. Beyond this world defined by the white trapezoidal shape, two oval figures, pierced by two long pointed objects, emerge from a dark background. Bright colours, such as yellow, are associated with acute and deep shapes, such as blue and black, with rounder shapes. Of course the colors always impact, like the one identified by the stain with the red color, a bright, warm, lively tone.
The second artist we analyze is a man who gave another point of view on abstraction. He was born on 18 December 1879 in unchenbuchsee, near Bern. Born into a family of musicians, he assumed the German citizenship of his father, Hans Klee; his mother Ida is Swiss. At the age of seven, Paul began to study the violin and became a member of an orchestra. Music would accompany him throughout his life. It is not by chance that he comes to us even with a few historical hints , immediately to the mind that Kandinsky too had had in the same way an education aimed at the study of music. The beauty of the arts is that it allows us to understand how decisive they are in the lives of so many artists. To the point of becoming a metaphor, an inspiration and sometimes a mirror of what personal interiority represents. In 1899 the Klee family moved to Munich, in the artists’ quarter. Klee continued to engage in all the arts without preferring one in particular, until he decided to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts. In the early twentieth century Paul Klee sails for Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Rome, Naples and finally Florence. Back in Bern in 1903, he prepared a series of etchings, later known as “Inventions”. In 1908 he participated in an exhibition of the Munich Secession with some paintings in which it is possible to notice a certain inspiration to Vincent van Gogh, of whom he had seen an exhibition. Paul Cézanne also wan another artist who influenced Klee’s works in the following years was, in fact the paintings made between 1908 and 1911 represent landscapes en plein air. In 1914 there was an episode that proved fundamental for Klee’s artistic development, and in particular for his relationship with color. In that year he undertook a two-week trip to Tunis and Hammamet together with Macke and Louis Moilliet.
Work and style
Paul Klee was multifaceted, curious and inclined to explore different painting techniques and different materials. During his career he made drawings, etchings, etchings, oil paintings, watercolors, pastels. One of his famous words reads: “Art does not rep abstractionism and that detects the essence in a total way. With respect to Kandinsky’s abstractionism, however, Klee’s abstraction is moved by different foundations. In fact, his works hardly abandon figuration altogether. His idea is, if anything, to grasp the origins of forms. His is a mode of representation in which reality is not reproduced in a traditional way, but a reasoned. On his abstract canvases, in fact, we find shapes and colors that constitute the equivalent of natural elements, even when these are completely different from the real ones. Think, for example, of the work Komiker, realized in 1904, it still shows a lot of figurative art. On the same wavelength, if it is reflected, as the famous Caprichos of Goya, he wanted to represent a subtle and veiled satire towards the bourgeoisie. During his life he worked as a teacher at the Bauhaus, a story that put him in front of the movement of rationalism. An influence that we will see represented in the work Separation of the evening of 1922. This marks the precise moment when day and night collide. Their limitations emerge, their inability to be so different. The title sets in the work a precise moment of the day: the object in question is time, a prolonged instant. Even here, however, we can subtly catch a use of the color placed in antithesis between the cold color of blue and its shades up to orange yellow. They are colors well distributed in space, literally placed gradually and in fact, rationally. I would bring attention to a painting like that of Senecio. In addition to being one of the most famous and important works. geometric shapes represent an extremely simplified face. Here emerges the manifestation of Paul’s sense of humor and African culture. Colors and simple shapes. It shows his passion for warm colors well distributed on the canvas, with a skillful use of various shades of orange, red and yellow to reveal the portrait of an old man. I mention this work because it is essential for his career. He’s an artist who fits into abstractionism, no doubt, but who will never be able to completely abandon figurative art. At the same time we notice the graphic elements of line, color planes and space are set in motion by an energy from the artist’s mind. The last period of Klee’s life and art is conditioned by a series of negative events, between the advent of Nazism and the first signs of illness. In 1936, he discovers that he is suffering from progressive scleroderma, but he does not lose his desire to paint, to innovate, and not even his tendency to play pictures not by chance. In the works of this period we see appearing big black and dark signs with threatening tones, that rage on dense and pasty colors. Look at Viaduct Revolution. A work of 1937 which allow the idea that he does not abandon his subtle art of satire and his desire to be ironic. Here he plays on the conformist architecture of the regime, made of linear arches, usually of the same height and width. The arches of the bridges want to get rid of all this, break the lines and make the revolution. In the same way it can be perceived as the idea of a Nazi gathering, with its noisy marches. He died on June 29, 1940, without having been able to enjoy the Swiss citizenship that long awaited. The very first etchings are characterized by a symbolic style, completely figurative, where the line is dominant. These works testify to Klee’s high technical ability, imagination and inventiveness. These are works in which socio-critical intent prevails, marked by the theatricality of the composition and in which there are also fantastic motifs, which reveal a certain dreamlike taste and sometimes caricatured. The trip to Tunisia was decisive because he had the opportunity to work a lot with the bright watercolors that he realized during his stay in those places.
Color is the real protagonist of his works. Geometric elements with light colors are combined in a delicate plot of relationships and almost musical chords; arabesques, domes, minarets, ideograms of camels and palms are imbued with exotic and fairy-tale atmospheres. During his stay in Switzerland, a radical change of style took place, tending to the purification of the pictorial means.
The work Intention , dating back to 1938, expresses more figurative signs. On the left, they refer to nature and animal figures, that meet to the right with figures more tending to geometric. A picture that was created using the colour mixed with glue on a newspaper glued to jute. What allows us to understand that this is his hand, is without doubt the spatial structure of the figures represented that refer to African motifs and geometric patterns that coexist harmoniously together.
He is a Dutch painter who, before moving on to abstractionism, but in reality into neoplasticism, makes numerous works rich in influences. He gives a rational, geometric and mathematical interpretation. Mondrian’s goal is to come to represent the unchangeable reality of things The movement aims to seek an art that is universal and that puts in harmony the man and the cosmos (link with theosophy), that is detached from any link with figuration and that is influential on the social life of the time. Born on March 7, 1872 in Amersfoort, Holland near Utrecht, in a family of rigid Calvinists. He began as a figurative painter, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam, from 1892 to 1895, enduring the influence of Dutch Romanticism and French painting. The images of his early paintings are pastoral, describing mills, fields, rivers. For example, Cortile su fattoria, 1895, watercolor on paper, the initial object of his paintings are the characteristic aspects of his native country, Holland. The influence of naturalism and landscapes such as rivers is strong. In this painting, for example, as we can see, the scene is described in great detail. Despite being very far from the idea of the artist’s most famous works, this first phase shows us how fundamental was the study of the natural, the contrast and the space. Mondrian’s art is strongly linked to his spiritual and philosophical studies, in particular to the theosophical theories he approached in 1899 and which have a great weight on his life. Around 1909 he decided to join the Dutch Theosophical Society. In 1911, he determined his definitive abandonment of naturalism and a decisive change in his painting determined by the knowledge of the works of the Cubists. The independence from the previous Dutch experiences is underlined by the artist with the adoption in this period of the name Mondrian, derived from the Francesizzazione of his original surname.In this Parisian period, The influence of the cubism of Picasso and Braque is noticeable almost immediately in his paintings. Mondrian remained in Paris until 1914, when he had to return to Holland due to family problems. The outbreak of the Great War, in 1914, forced him to stay in Holland where he went to live in a colony of artists. It was there that Mondrian met Theo van Doesburg, painter and architect, with whom he founded the magazine De Stijl (The Style). In the periodical Mondrian publishes several essays on which he defines his artistic theory. The formulation of this theory, which is called
neoplasticism, marks its definitive break with representative painting. Meanwhile, in 1919, at the end of the war, Mondrian returned to Paris and remained there until 1938. In those years he defined the style that made him famous all over the world, the famous “grid” paintings. What emerges most as the difference between Kandinkij and Mondrian is the vision of art in relation to rationalism. For the second artist, in fact, rationalism is absolute and in his fully abstract works subjectivity is absent as an element of obscuration of the true essence of reality. Unlike the first that will link art to the so-called lyrical abstraction, connecting it directly to the emotional sphere of the artist. For example, in “Red Tree” 1909 fits as a work that outlines his tyle as essential to criticism. His intention was to progressively eliminate the elements of the language traditionally used in painting. In this case he chose to use a limited color gamut. A soft blue that acts as a background, trying to highlight as much as possible the almost exact shape of the shrub. Already the year after we discover that the same theme, re-proposed with “Gray Tree” 1911 oil on canvas, shows an exponential change in color rendering. The real structure is synthesized in a set of curved lines, we turn to a more rational art, far from the original form. The curved black lines intertwine with each other, simplifies the tree, The trunk is of branches, uses lines drawn neatly and synthetically. The lines are not affixed with a natural order but with a compositional order. Compared to the red tree, the gray tree is depicted in a more central position in the composition. A long path that of abstract composition up to the neoplastic one. It would not be Mondrian if I did not quote the famous composition “Red, blue, yellow” 1930 oil on canvas. This painting is so well known as to become almost the constant signature of the artist, but we analyzed that not only was this work emblematic of his entire career. Composition with red, yellow and blue” is a painting that belongs to the most well-known period of Mondrian. Inside the painted surface the black thick lines are orthogonal. They create rectangular and square backgrounds. Here the primary colors are protagonists. Directly linked to a precise spiritual symbolism. The yellow linked to solar energy, the red the union between light and space, finally, the blue, symbol of spirituality. The universal equilibrium, according to theosophical theory, inspires a correct life. This composition is therefore very balanced and carefully distributes the vertical and horizontal lines to obtain a balanced result from the compositional point of view. In addition, it distributes colors by varying the size of geometric shapes to create a balance of weights in the composition The Abstracionism in Italy As often happened , the arrival of a new artistic current makes its way after some time since its birth. The appropriate example is that of Italy. This is denoted by the fact that the Italian artistic avant-garde of those years, futurism, never completely abandoned its figurative base. this did not deny that however there were some exponents who welcomed abstractionism and reworked it. In November 1934 the Galleria del Milione resented the painters Oreste Bogliardi, Virginio Chiringhelli and Mauro Reggiani in the first exhibition of Italian abstractionism art. These published for the occasion in the catalogue a theoretical text, even the first of Italian geometric abstractionism; and at the end of the year, between december and january 1935, Luigi Veronesi with Josef Albers. During 1935 the Milione presented solo shows by other Italian abstract artists, Lucio Fontana, Osvaldo Licini, Mauro Melotti and Atanasio Soldati. This is the first group of Italian artists to create a first hint of Italian abstractionism. Milione presents solo shows by other Italian abstract artists, Lucio Fontana, Osvaldo Licini, Mauro Melotti, Atanasio Soldati. Subsequently, in the editions of Milione they published, again in 1935, the volume Kn, in which Kandinsky has a prominent place, which provoked an interesting exchange of letters between the artist and Belli, as well as, for the first time in Italy, a critical debate, also at the level journalistic, on abstract art. Among the main artists of Italian abstractionism there is Manlio Rho who had in his library the texts of the Bauhaus, where Kandinsky taught until 1932. He composed works as clear as crystals, full of a warmth that made them unique. At the same time Giuseppe Terragni was already reworking with his genius in architecture the ideas of rationalism and the spark of Kandinsky’s art exploded in new and very original forms, with a pure geometric abstraction, apparently close to Russian supremacy, but in reality unmistakably Italian. During the fifties, moving away from the Lombard area to move towards the Lazio area. The first art exhibitionin Italy opened in March 1948 in the Galleria di Roma, with the participation of many artists. These have been grouped together since late 1948 in the Concrete Art Movement, M.A.C., in the context of an incontestable geometric abstraction with Kandinsky. The dialogue with the Russian founding father is reaffirmed as in the quotation-comparison of the 1948 work Trenta by Soldati with the 1937 work by Kandinsky, both chosen for the Milan exhibition next March.