Our recommended reading series offers readers a curated list of Thames & Hudson titles relevant to selected cultural events. In this post we focus on abstract art to mark the opening of the Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art at Tate Modern.
World of Art: Abstract Art
Anna Moszynska shows here how abstract art originated and evolved, placing it in its broad historical and cultural context.
She traces the paths to abstraction forged by artists such as Balla, Kupka and Delaunay, and examines the pioneering work of Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian, the Russian Constructivists, the De Stijl group and the Bauhaus artists, and contrasts the geometric tendencies of the 1930s and 1940s with the post-War emphasis on personal expression that culminated in Abstract Expressionism in the United States.
Finally, Anna Moszynska considers the work of ‘Post-Painterly’, Op, Kinetic and Minimal artists and examines the revived abstraction practised by Neo-Geo and other artists of the 1980s.
Paths to Abstraction 1867 – 1917
Surveying the art of five decades, from 1867 to 1917, this publication follows the broad and diverse ways that artists and their public, little by little, learnt to see and to judge works of art abstractly.
The contributions of Whistler, Monet, Cézanne, Maurice Denis, Vuillard, Matisse, Derain, Picasso and Braque in advancing the possibilities of abstraction are given due emphasis. Apart from Kandinsky, the first generation of abstract painters included Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, František Kupka, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, Giacomo Balla, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Paul Klee, Arthur Dove and Patrick Henry Bruce. How had these artists arrived at such a convergence? How had abstract art taken root so quickly? Why was it not singled out by critics or historians as an independent art movement?
One answer is that the conventions of abstraction had evolved over such a long time and were so thoroughly embedded in the avant-garde movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, that the advent of abstract art seemed inevitable; abstraction was considered synonymous with ‘modern art’. Far from breaking links to prior avant-garde movements, as this book argues, abstraction arose directly from a tradition of speculation about the nature of art and of aesthetic experience.
Inventing Abstraction: 1910 – 1925
It was only a century ago that audiences in Europe and the United States saw their first examples of modernist abstract art.
This invaluable new book includes examinations of key artists, artworks, events and issues in the early history of abstraction. In combining these investigations with a new and original sense of abstract art as an expansive, various, yet inter-related field, Inventing Abstraction makes an outstanding contribution to its study.
In celebrating this bold aesthetic adventure, Inventing Abstraction focuses on its first fifteen years, as ideas developed and spread through an international network of artists. It also reached into many media – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and film, writing and the book, music and dance. Inventing Abstraction features extensive illustrations of works in all these forms.
Moscow and St.Petersburg in Russia’s Silver Age
The twilight of Imperial Russia witnessed a sudden renaissance of the visual, literary and performing arts: here was a Silver Age as luminous perhaps as the Golden Age of Russian literature many decades before.
Much of this new flowering was indebted to the set of ideas known as Symbolism, which flourished in Russia. The Russian Symbolists lived and created on the edge, which often made them to be named ‘Decadent’ or ‘Degenerate’. Yet, as Sergei Diaghilev declared, theirs was not a moral or artistic decline, but a voyage of inner discovery and a refurbishing of a national culture.
A dazzling array of artists, writers, composers, actors, singers, dancers and designers are presented here in context, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, Gorky, Akhmatova, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Nijinsky, Scriabin, Karsavina, Meyerhold, Chaliapin, Stanislavsky, Diaghilev, Roerich, Repin, Serov, Somov, Vrubel, Bakst, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mayakovsky and many more.
The book includes a rich repertoire of artworks and vintage documentary photographs, many of which have not been published before. With a clear narrative and comprehensive bibliography, this volume will appeal both to the specialist and to the general student of Russian history and culture.
Russian and Soviet Theatre
In the interval between the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 the Russian theatre of the future was already an obsessive preoccupation for writers, directors and designers. Lenin proclaimed that theatre had to be ‘greater than a spectacle’, and directors, designers, playwrights and artists rose to the challenge, creating an aesthetic revolution which is still inspiring today’s dramatists.
Russian and Soviet Theatre documents the extraordinary developments of the years from about 1900 to 1932. It presents an astonishing wealth of previously unpublished material, including over 450 illustrations showing performances directed by Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Mikhail Chekhov, with designs by some of the greatest modernist artists of the age, including Malevich, Larionov and Rodchenko. Visually exhilarating and critically perceptive, this book is a unique record of this formative period in modern theatre.
Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art is on at Tate Modern until 26 October 2014 – click here for more information.