Theosophy and the Emergence of Modern Abstract Art
- Published: Saturday, 03 March 2012 00:12
Kathleen Hall – Canada
[Kathleen Hall studied the modern abstractionists and their Theosophical connections while working on the thesis for her master’s degree. In connection with that work she corresponded with a number of contemporary Theosophical artists, particularly Burton Callicott, Don Kruse, and Pamela Lowrie. She is a resident of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and became a member of the Canadian Federation of the Theosophical Society as a result of her study. Kathleen is currently researching arts-based education programs for marginalized Roma children].
At the turn of the nineteenth century, a movement in art emerged that was a response to higher awareness of cosmic truth. Modern abstract art was the visible manifestation of spiritual ideals professed through the teachings of Theosophy and other wisdom lore. The artists of this movement were scribes who painted what words could not say.
Spirituality in abstract art began around 1890 and ran in parallel with a growing interest in mysticism and the occult. Many artists were becoming intrigued with spiritual writings, in particular with Madame Blavatsky’s major work, The Secret Doctrine. Undoubtedly there were other influences, such as the works of Édouard Schuré, Jakob Böhme, and Emmanuel Swedenborg. But it was Theosophy that had the most profound effect on the emergence of modern abstract art and specifically on the founding fathers of the movement, Wassily Kandinsky, Frantisek Kupka, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimer Malevich.
Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian
Theosophy gave these artists a vista that became the fundamental groundwork of their spirituality. From this viewpoint, they believed they were able to see beyond and into the natural world, as well as gaining an understanding of the ancient wisdom and cosmic principles of our existence. This lofty vantage point elevated all four beyond this-worldly concerns and gave them a sense of divine sight into otherworldly realms. They stood in the doorway between two worlds, they were the messengers, and communicating this knowledge became the objective of their art.