Dee, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or por- tions thereof in any form. For information, address the publisher at North Halsted Street, Chicago This book was first published in in Germany as Abstraktion und Einfihlung. It was first published in English in the United States of America in and is here reprinted by arrangement with International Universities Press. Manufactured in the United States of America and printed on acid-free paper.
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Dee, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or por- tions thereof in any form. For information, address the publisher at North Halsted Street, Chicago This book was first published in in Germany as Abstraktion und Einfihlung. It was first published in English in the United States of America in and is here reprinted by arrangement with International Universities Press.
Manufactured in the United States of America and printed on acid-free paper. With new introd. Inchudes index. ISBN 1. Art, Abstract. Abstraction and Empathy 2. Naturalism and Style Il. Ornament 4. The young German scholar, born the same year as Pablo Picasso, completed the dissertation in at the age of twenty-five. When the disserta- tion was published that year in a private edition, as acade- mic custom required, the book excited sufficient intellec- tual interest in Germany for the Munich publisher Reinhard Piper to bring out a trade edition in It was not only in Germany, however, that the book found interested readers.
In January , by which time abstract painting was a flourishing feature of the European avant-garde, a young English poet, critic, and philosopher by the name of T. Eliot, had met the author of Abstraction and Empathy at a conference in Berlin. It was in that essay that I first heard of Abstraction and Empathy when I was an under- graduate in the late s.
It remains for me today one of the key documents in the literature of modernism. It needs to be understood, however, that Worringer himself was not writing about modernist art in Abstraction and Empathy. He was writing about the art of the European past, but in a way that proved to be modernist in its assumptions. This would have been some time before , by which time the influence of African tribal sculpture on the art of the Fauves in France and the Briicke group in Germany was well known to the artistic intelligentsia of both countries.
It is there- fore hard to believe that Worringer remained unac- quainted with these developments—or, indeed, with the use that Gaugin made of the primitive art of the Pacific islands in his work even earlier—during the writing of Abstraction and Empathy. Yet nowhere in the book does its author mention them. It may be, of course, that it was thought to be detrimental to his academic career for a young scholar to be seen to be acquainted with such unseemly developments. Whereas the one not only accepted but greatly idealized that world, the other was ix INTRODUCTION made anxious and uncertain by it and thus felt compelled to devise artistic strategies designed to minimize its sover- eignty.
It was the latter that Worringer dubbed the will to abstraction. They are antitheses which, in principle, are mutu- ally exclusive. In actual fact, however, the history of art represents an unceasing disputation between the two ten- dencies. We might describe this state as an immense spiritual dread of space.
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.
Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style
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On Abstraction and Empathy, Wilhelm Worringer’s Fundamental Work
Wilhelm Worringer. Abstraction and Empathy