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He has published extensively on art and advertising, German Expressionism, and Berlin dada. During the summer of two monumental quasi-abstract sculptures created by Hermann Obrist stood on the grounds of the Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition across the Rhine River from downtown Cologne.
Although neither has survived, they were located in courtyards to the sides of the theater that Henry van de Velde had designed for the exhibition Figure 1.
To the south was a limestone fountain that stood about twenty feet high Figure 2 ; while Movement, a swirling pinnacle-like sculpture that also approached twenty feet in height, was to the north. A photograph of the latter in situ reveals the spires of Cologne Cathedral rising on the distant right horizon. This essay will explore trajectories of this visual and textual discourse, paying particular attention to their nexus during in the work of Franz Marc.
The first section drew on his dissertation, which argued that abstract forms could communicate a full range of feelings because of the human capacity for empathic response. Learning to see meant recognizing that vision was linked to a larger network of senses within the perceiving subject, all connected to processes of emotion and imagination. Stacy Hand has shown how he was attracted throughout his artistic career to contemporary proponents of a Lebensphilosophie, who drew on current biological and psychological theories.
Obrist believed that an alliance of science and art could produce images that expressed fundamental structures and forces within nature. One of these Figure 4 , which was envisioned as serving humans, cattle, dogs, and birds, showed his interest in communicating the commonality of animal life. Another Figure 5 , which he designated as a spring-fountain for a park or castle courtyard, struck one commentator as addressing the relation of plant growth to flowing water, but also the transmutability of water between its liquid and frozen states: Constant drops hollow the stone and sharp angles are thus absurd.
In which the applied ornament does not seem to be copies of various plants themselves, but of the fantastic forms that ice tends to give them? When the new designs were shown in Berlin in , one reviewer remarked how Obrist, rather than retaining the allegorical figures of other contemporary fountains, had created new abstract sculptural values through the poetic contrast of the weight and rigidity of rock with the flowing, erosive power of water Bredt Obrist, himself, wrote at this time: An undreamed-of wealth of possibilities arise for an eye that has learned to see the sculptural forms in nature, which has learned to enlarge the compact power of buds, the roundness and ribs of seeds from their microscopic smallness to meter-high forms.
All forms of tactile feeling, the feeling of smoothness, of coarseness, of hardness, of softness, of elasticity, of rigidity, of flexibility, of swollenness, of leanness, of roundness, and of angularity are aroused by forms remodeled from nature, and sculptural architectural ornament awaits, like Sleeping Beauty, its resurrection. No: the human nude is not the beginning and end of sculpture. The inorganic is contrasted and merged with the organic — crystalline structures with the hypocotyl bendings of plant growth.
Both fluid and frozen, the sculpture is indeed a puzzle of phantasmic forms, similar to those that the commentator had previously associated with water freezing as it flowed over plant and rock forms.
One of the students who enrolled in was Marta Schmitz, an artist from Cologne who was to marry Wilhelm Worringer in Grebing Worringer had arrived in Munich in , at the height of Jugendstil, and he was certainly aware of the theories behind its empathic abstraction, since he mixed with writers who were associated with its artists while Paul Stern, his closest friend, had written a dissertation on empathy theory Grebing Empathy was, he argued, the artistic volition of peoples who were content in the organic world and found expression in naturalism.
Arising with the Greeks and Romans, it diminished during the Early Christian and Medieval eras before emerging again in the Renaissance. Truth to reality came to be seen as its goal and literary content gradually grew to dominate its formal means, until the present condition, which he described in the following way: Now, for the first time, the outer world begins to live and it receives all its life from man, who now anthropomorphizes all its inner essence, all its inner forces.
This psychological condition compelled the removal of depicted objects from the arbitrariness of the external world, to eternalize them by approximation to abstract forms and to thus find a point of tranquility and refuge from appearances.
Space and volume were suppressed in favor of what Worringer termed the geometric-crystalline. While he gave various examples of this abstract style, his primary one was Northern animal style of the first millennium A. Figure 6 , although he hesitated to call it abstract because, despite its purely linear, inorganic basis, it contained restless life within the tangle of line.
He continued: Here we have the decisive formula for the whole medieval North. Here are the elements, which later on, as we shall show, culminate in Gothic. The need for empathy of this inharmonious people does not take the nearest- at-hand path to the organic, because the harmonious motion of the organic is not sufficiently expressive for it; it needs rather that uncanny pathos which attaches to the animation of the inorganic. Confronted with a Gothic cathedral Figure 7 , he asked, how could one say whether its soul, the mysterious inner power of its nature, is organic or abstract?
Rather, he answered, the mechanically abstract laws of construction have become a living movement of forces. Only in this heightened movement of forces, which in their intensity of expression surpass all organic motion, was Northern man able to gratify his need for expression, which had been intensified to the point of pathos by inner disharmony. Gripped by the frenzy of these mechanical forces, which thrust out at all their terminations and aspire toward heaven in a mighty crescendo of orchestral music, he feels himself convulsively drawn aloft in blissful vertigo, raised high above himself into the infinite.
In January of , Emmy Worringer, his sister, helped found the Gereon Club, a venue for exhibitions, readings, and lectures about contemporary art and literature in Cologne — the first event being an evening lecture, held in July of that year, being Worringer himself on Abstraction and Empathy. Both artists would have significant exhibitions in Cologne during the years before World War I. The role played by abstraction in their expressive effect was quite different from the earlier paintings by his father, Wilhelm Marc, a professor at the Munich Academy who specialized in animal and genre scenes.
Piper wrote this in a section devoted to Nordic animal-style art of a popular book entitled The Animal in Art, which he authored and published in spring of While working on the book, Piper had visited a Munich gallery where Marc was having his first exhibition. I am looking for a good, pure and light style in which at least part of what we modern painters have to say will show through.
I am trying to intensify my feeling for the organic rhythm of all things. I am striving to empathize pantheistically with the quiver and flow of blood in nature, trees, animals, the air. I am striving to make pictures of this, with new movements and colors, that defy our old easel paintings. But, strangely enough they carefully steer clear of the most natural subject for art of this kind - the animal picture.
This is why I seize it. The circulation of blood in the bodies of both horses is expressed through the diverse parallelism and oscillation of the lines. I have intentionally tried to remove any indication as to type and breed from these horses. Therefore, for example, the vigorous proportions of the limbs are somewhat unhorselike. Yet no one can deny the impact of this turbulent scene. It is really an eruption of the elements. The distinctive organism of the animal is by no means compromised by the introduction of elements foreign to it; rather all of the power and splendor of the phenomenon, otherwise dispersed or quiescent, flares up in a moment of greatest intensity and discharge of forces.
He continued, saying that there are artists of the present, like Kandinsky and Picasso, who project their inner world as the subject of their work. Through the course of his paintings seem to have been guided, in part, by this speculative effort, with his painting Horse in a Landscape of often presented as a prime example Figure The horse directs our eyes onto undulating grassland, spotted with what may be clumps of brush, all rendered in relatively flat and abstracted areas of saturated colors.
But the incongruity of his effort always has a dynamic, against which the synthetic achievement of the most blissful peoples can appear almost cheap to us; cheap, because they have arisen under very easy conditions and therefore do without the ethos of a promethean expenditure of effort.
This conclusion was drawn by Marc as well in The Waterfall Figure 12 , a composition of mid, in which the water pouring through the rocks above unites the nude female figures and landscape in an ornamental surface design Hoberg Symbolically, the rush of water works as a purifying force, cascading over the standing figure at lower left and sweeping her hair back into the compositional pattern.
It is also a site where domesticated and wild nature join, a gathering point for both the tabby cat curled up below the female bathers on the near bank and the stretching tiger on the opposite side.
Blue depths lying behind showing through. Left at the edge green, on the upper left a little black bridge on red. As different as the states of water are in the two paintings, they share a new use of transparent color and increased dynamism of form.
A text that Delaunay gave Marc during the visit stated his goal of composing colors so that they simultaneously retained their uniqueness, while combining in a rhythm that communicated unity within the natural world Shortly afterwards, Marc began to set his animals in a shallow spatial grid of transparent colors, a means of intermixing figures with ground and suggesting that the world was a field of moving energy. Its greatest goal is to dissolve the whole system of our limited feelings, to reveal an unearthly being that lives behind everything, to smash the mirror of life so that we look into being.
In the same letter, however, he reaffirmed his appreciation of Windows in Three Parts, seen the previous fall; and the unusual horizontal format of which would be adopted by Marc in several important paintings of the coming fall and winter. Translating sun- and moonlight into color and form, they produce a gyrational force within the canvas that clearly intrigued Marc, as evident in a series of paintings done after seeing the exhibition. The extended frieze format relates to the admired Window in Three Parts, as do the diagonal shafts of colored light that lend dynamism and space to the horizontal grid.
Their generalized titles were new, as was their degree of abstraction. Playing Forms appears to have been an important transitional work in his move to abstraction, its format being similar to Stables and having a tripartite structure that from left to right employs forms that suggest inorganic structures, animal, and plant life Fig. But it has required a long road in order to recognize that the world is only spirit, is only psyche and the magical natural laws signify only our second, more spiritual, deeper form and formula for the psyche, for our own psyche.
The laws of nature are the tool of our second, better insight, our second sight, with which we observe the appearances of the world today. Some scholars consider Broken Forms to be the last painting done before Marc left for the war Figure How it acquired its title is unknown, but its wording is similar to Cheerful Forms, which was, with Playing Forms, one of two large abstract paintings that were shown in and titled for the large memorial exhibition given Marc by the Munich Free Secession in Fall Our belief is the second sight, the second step of cognition, the exact science.
Every belief gives birth to form. Our belief in knowledge will have its great form in the twentieth century. Historisches Archiv Krupp.
Letter to Cedric Bolz. Das Pferd und seine Geschichte. Berlin: Bondi, Bredt, E. Delaunay, Robert. Letter in Delaunay und Deutschland. Peter-Klaus Schuster. Exhibition catalogue. Munich: Haus der Kunst, 4 Oct. Konturen V 28 Endell, August. Letter in Buddensieg, Tilmann. Eschenburg, Barbara.
The Retrospective. Annegret Hoberg and Helmut Friedel.
from Abstraction and Empathy – Wilhelm Worringer
Wilhelm Worringer. Wilhelm Worringer's landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in , has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but also for generations of creative writers and intellectuals is almost unprecedented. Starting from the notion that beauty derives from our sense of being able to identify with an object, Worringer argues that representational art produces satisfaction from our "objectified delight in the self," reflecting a confidence in the world as it is--as in Renaissance art. By contrast, the urge to abstraction, as exemplified by Egyptian, Byzantine, primitive, or modern expressionist art, articulates a totally different response to the world: it expresses man's insecurity. Thus in historical periods of anxiety and uncertainty, man seeks to abstract objects from their unpredictable state and transform them into absolute, transcendental forms.
On Abstraction and Empathy, Wilhelm Worringer’s Fundamental Work
Wilhelm Robert Worringer 13 January in Aachen — 29 March in Munich was a German art historian known for his theories about abstract art and its relation to avant-garde movements such as German Expressionism. Through his influence on the art critic T. Hulme , his ideas were influential in the development of early British modernism , especially Vorticism. Worringer studied art history in Freiburg, Berlin, and Munich before moving to Bern, where he got his Ph.
Add to GoodReads. Abstraction and Empathy. Wilhelm Worringer's landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in , has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but also for generations of creative writers and intellectuals is almost unprecedented.