A culture of dissonance : Wassily Kandinsky, atonality, and abstraction
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A Culture of Dissonance: Wassily Kandinsky, Atonality, and Abstraction by Lynn Edward Boland, Ph.D. Supervisor: Linda D. Henderson Wassily Kandinsky's interest in music as a source for abstraction in painting has often been noted in the scholarship on his art. However, no studies have sufficiently explained how the artist employed musical strategies, especially as he was developing his abstract style in the first decade of the twentieth century. Kandinsky's looked primarily to Arnold Schoenberg's new musical idioms and theories, and he was deeply inspired by highly dissonant music, but his ideas were set within a much broader context that further suggested and encouraged the expressive and transformative power of dissonance. By the late nineteenth century, extended passages of dissonance were common in musical compositions. At the same time, the concept of dissonance as a positive force was suggested in a wide range of late nineteenth-century literature, including the writings of Friedrich [should be this spelling throughout] Nietzsche, occult authors, popular texts on physics and experimental psychology, as well as within music and art theory. Close readings of Kandinsky's theoretical texts and selected works of art provide insights into how he might have understood and employed these concepts in his formation of an abstract style. Kandinsky's paintings Impression III (Concert) of 1911 and Composition VII of 1913 are the primary artistic foci of this study, along with his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art and the anthology Der Blaue Reiter, which he co-edited. This dissertation will seek to restore the concept of musical dissonance and its application in the visual arts to its historical context for Kandinsky. This will facilitate more informed formal analyses of Schoenberg's music and Kandinsky's paintings, which, in turn, suggest strategies of atonal musical composition applied to abstract painting. Additionally, this dissertation will establish an artistic context of visual dissonance that goes beyond Kandinsky, including artistic movements in France and Russia, allowing additional comparisons and a consideration of the larger impact of these ideas.