Inspiration and the Soul

Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist and art theorist, was one of the first painters noted as an abstract artist.  He wrote On the Spiritual in Art in 1912 during the time in which he was a member of the artist group ‘The Blue Rider,’ a group of abstract painters who were planning on doing an exposition but was curtailed because of the onset of World War I.  The language was one geared towards artists and those who were interested in understanding and observing art, using terms and phrases such as ‘observer,’ ‘inspiration,’ and ‘spiritual in art.’  Kandinsky’s intent was to help those less informed about art understand how to observe art and what it takes to create a truly ‘inspired’ work.  Kandinsky’s message ultimately was that “”Understanding” is the approach of the observer to the to the artist’s viewpoint” ((Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art, 1946)), which further explicates the concept that observers must do their best to see the art from an artist’s perspective.

Inspiration for art in itself is a very abstract concept; one in which I probably will never understand.  Learning about this concept of inspiration and understanding art was incredibly fascinating to read about, especially Kandinsky’s assumption that “Each painting mysteriously contains an entire life, a life of many sufferings, hours of doubts, of enthusiasm and of delighted inspiration” ((Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art, 1946)).  This statement helped me understand the agony and jubilation an artist may experience during the process of trying to find inspiration in the world around him.

It made me think of how much that inspiration truly matters in the real world no matter what our field is; be it to better the field or find a better life, every person must have inspiration behind their passion.  Because without inspiration, there is no ‘soul’ in whatever one strives to accomplish; it is without base or foundation.

My question: what do you think inspiration came from during this time period (the early 1900s)?  Have these same things changed throughout time?  How could an artist’s inspiration differ from a professor’s, for example?

Rupert Brooke’s Great War Poetry

Author: Rupert Brooke was born in England, in 1887. Brooke, renowned for his World War I poetry, attended Cambridge University on a scholarship and was eventually commissioned to Britain’s Royal Naval Division. His premature death was the result of a mosquito bite that gave him septicemia on April 23, 1915.

Content: The content of Brooke’s poetry is striking. There is a stark contrast between the majority of Great War poets who lent their prose to engraving our imaginations with repugnant images of trenches, diseases, and death, to Brooke’s stanzas that could make a man or woman leave the comfort of their home to rather charge through no-man’s land with bayonet in hand. He is extremely optimistic about the war.

Language: Poetry of this caliber is difficult to read. The language is flowery, and the line breaks sometimes make it hard to complete the whole image which Brooke’s is trying to portray. Perhaps the language would come more easily had it been read by an Englishman one hundred years ago.

Audience: All of England. This is very romantic, pro-nationalist poem that is written for anyone who is scared of, or willing to help the war effort.

Intent: Brooke’s intent is to motivate. Also, to elicit a sense of national pride and honor which can be achieved through sacrificing yourself for England.

Message: Choose glory over life; for there is nothing greater than fighting for England. “But, dying, has made us greater gifts than gold.” He also implies that death is release from this world, which Brook’s seems to think is somewhat dreaded, and that the manner in which you die on the battlefield makes one “Rich” in a sense that is more significant that monetary wealth. Simply put, Brooke’s message is that dying for England is greater than merely living for England.