Q: I’d like to get back to Kandinsky and his essay on the spiritual in art and what do you consider the generating force or ideas are for non-objective painting?
I keep trying to get in on something on painting and how you think about painting. How you think about your own practice and you keep slipping off into something else.
ReeL: My position is closer to what Herbert Read said. I feel Kandinsky made a dangerous mistake bringing in the spiritual. But he couldn’t help himself. He was a Theosophist.
Did you know that two of the Theosophists wrote a book about 6 years before Kandinsky’s essay, where they posited the possibility of a totally non-objective art of painting that would be a more spiritual form of painting.
Q: No. I didn’t know that! Are you kidding?
ReeL: No. They even had abstract paintings to illustrate it.
Q: No way. Before Kandinsky?
ReeL: Yes, more than half a decade before Kandinsky. They weren’t very good paintings. After all, they weren’t Kandinsky. But being a Theosophist, it seems to me that Kandinsky would have to have seen that book. In fact there are passages in the book that are very close, conceptually, to ideas in Kandinsky’s essay. Too close for coincidence.
So that whole precedent argument between Kandinsky and Delaunay was bogus. It required the suppression of this book. A book that Kandinsky surely knew about.
I’ve actually seen a copy. There’s one in the library connected to the Amy Besant school in Ojai.
Q: The one connected with the Beatrice Wood center?
ReeL: Yes, that one.