Landscape Contra Figure

The view that abstract art derives from landscape is venerable, and if we look at Kandinsky, Mondrian and other early abstractionists, not far-fetched. Ehrenzweig makes the following observation:

“In my view, the dehumanization of Western art began when the contemplation of landscape replaced the representation of of the human body. The undifferentiated background blotted out the human actors and took over the leading part. From then onwards it was only a comparatively small step to the total abstraction of modern art.”

To hear this we have to remove the moral value from the term “dehumanization,” and just take it as objective description, meaning the removal of human reference. We should also register the allusion to “theatricality.” As already noted on this blog, the figure/landscape or landscape/figure is a good example of an important bad idea. And crucial for this aspect of abstraction are Cézanne’s bathers. I don’t think I can even begin to explain how much this subject and this history means to me.

Paul Cézanne, Bathers 1894-1906

Paul Cézanne, Bathers 1894-1906

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