This section is from the book "Is It Art? Post-Impressionism. Futurism. Cubism.", by J. Nilsen Laurvik.
Grondin remained dumbfounded. Palombaro continued quietly.
"I speak Italiano, but neverthless when one comes from Granelle, it is for all one's life. I was born to succeed, I was. You see how simple it is; there are more unusual things. You and I understand each other perfectly; it is to our interest to say nothing about this; especially to Rutilant. He poses as an anarchist, that fellow... 'A Dishwasher, who Became a Great Painter', would be a capital subject for a smashing article for him: the people here, and the right to beauty there and all... such rot. As if, at the ' Independents ', they had not a little of everything: Custom house officers, counter jumpers, janitors, who amuse themselves with painting... hah! that wouldn't do at all. You have a very 'chic' gallery, I want to be 'chic', and as to the people, oh piffle! Therefore, both for you and me, it is better to keep mum, don't you think so, Mr. Grondin? .. "
The most consistent, if not successful, of all these attempts at abstraction are no doubt the "Improvisations" by Wassily Kadinsky, who has had the good sense to abandon all idea of representation in his pictures as well as in the titles. He is content to let color alone serve his purpose and this is apportioned and juxtaposed in various formless masses according to his conception of its emotional value.
It may be anything under heaven or earth that you wish to imagine it but he creates neither boundary posts nor sign posts. He takes you into the Terra Incognita of art and if you get lost that is your own lookout. And after you have thought of everything under heaven and earth and found it unrelated to Mr. Kadinsky's picture you finally think of nothing whatever, and that perhaps is the artist's real triumph inasmuch as his work is a negation of all the elements hitherto regarded as essential components of a work of plastic art.
He attempts to produce with color the sensations produced by music. As far as I am concerned he fails and I think he is bound to fail with most people, for I believe the sensations produced by these two arts are as distinct and separate as are the organs of sight and hearing, notwithstanding Ruskin's poetic chacterization of architecture as "frozen music," which in itself is as anomalous and paradoxical as the present atempts of certain men to substitute one art for another.
Generically, these two arts - music and the plastic arts - are at variance with each other, and what gives life to the one is the death of the other. The first is fluent and transitory while the latter is static and enduring. Music does not begin to exist until it has been liberated and its very being is a dying and when it is finished it is ended, while plastic art begins to exist only when it has become fixed in paints or clay and every stroke that contributes towards its completion gives it a more fixed and permanent character, therefore kaleidoscopic art is as anomalous as "frozen music."
One might easily pursue these essential differences further but this is sufficient, I think, to show the prime fallacy underlying all these vain efforts to attain the effects of one art by means of another. To be sure, we know that red enrages a bull, as we are confidently told by advocates of this method of musical color notation, and that certain colors have been found to have a soothing and even therapeutic effects upon invalids and the insane, but these effects are obtained through optical, not aural sensations and one might with as much reason substitute an omelet for a sonnet, simply because we know that sensations are received thro' the sense of touch and taste as to pretend that an "Improvisation" by Kadinsky is the emotional equivalent of an "Improvisation" by Liszt. Shut your eyes and note what becomes of the music of Kadinsky. From this it follows that the attempt to ignore or transcend the forms imposed upon every art by its inner necessity usually ends in nullity.
And something similar happens when a man tries by main force to wrench himself free of the time in which he lives, as is evident in the work of many of the most "advanced" artists of to-day.
Just as the concrete, matter of fact realism of CÚzanne has been converted into a system of involved geometries simply because somewhere he said that form is based on the geometric figures of the sphere, cone and cylinder, so the primitive and very sincere romanticism of Van Gogh and Gauguin has been productive of all sorts of childish exaggerations that only parody the defects of these innovators without achieving any of their virtues.
The genesis of Gauguin was altogether different from that of CÚzanne. To begin with he was nurtured in the Academy, and he made his debut as an Academic draughtsman of the purest and best defined style. Later his spirit underwent an evolution, due to the contagion he suffered when he came in contact with the Pre-Columbian art of South America, and with the art of the Tahiti Islands, upon which he lived a long time and in which I find a great deal of the savage.
And this man, who had been taught in the ways of the Academy, could say in later life when he had found himself that "To know how to draw is not to draw well," and that "the greatness of the masters of art does not consist in the absence of faults; rather, their mistakes are different from those of the ordinary artist." This came to be very true of his own work in which one finds an absence of copying. Instead he devoted himself to rendering the subjective impression and the large, decorative aspect of the subject that appealed to him.
The so-called faults of drawing he ignored as inconsequential and not because of a lack of ability. He seeks a certain monumental effect and to that end he sacrifices the truth of actuality, wherein one may find strong bonds of kinship with Puvis Chavannes whom he admired equally with CÚzanne.