Tag Archives: abstract art

On absolute music and abstract art

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Absolute Music: The History of an Idea (2014,Mark Evan Bonds) appears to be an interesting read.

I found it while researching the origins of abstract art (in the modern sense of non-figuration, as starting with Whistler[1], Turner[2], some Constables[3], and later on De Stijl[4]).

During my research, I finally stumbled upon my own archives at Jahsonic.com, where, on the abstract art page, I re-read the famous August Endell quote:

“We stand at the threshold of an altogether new art – an art with forms which mean or represent nothing, recall nothing, yet which can stimulate our souls as deeply as only the tones of music have been able to.”

This in turn, led me to the Bonds book where the origins of abstract art (or thinking about abstract art) is described as:

“The sense of painting as an art primarily of form rather than of representation won growing acceptance toward the end of the nineteenth century. The French painter and writer Maurice Denis (1870–1943) pointed out in 1890 that “it is well to remember that a picture — before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote—is essentially a plane surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.” In lectures delivered at Harvard in the 1890s, Santayana speculated on the possibility of a “new abstract art” that would “deal with colors as music does with sound.” Along similar lines, the German architect August Endell (1871–1925) spoke in 1898 about “the beginning of a totally new art, an art with forms that mean nothing and represent nothing and remind one of nothing; yet that will be able to move our souls so deeply, as before only music has been able to do with tones.” The writings of the German art historian Wilhelm Worringer (1881–1965) lent further prestige to the aesthetics of abstraction. In his influential Abstraktion und Einfühlung: Ein Beitrag zur Stilpsychologie (1908), he asserted that throughout history nonrepresentational art […] reflected a society’s distrust of materiality and a correspondingly greater attraction the world of the spirit.”

That about sums up what I expected to find.

See absolute music and abstract art, and the famous dictum by Walter Pater: “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music