Kandinsky wrote in an article in 1901, Kritika Kritikov (Criticism of the Critics), about Russian critics and their inability to understand and appreciate modern art. The attitude he wanted to get to, was the same ignorance that Djikstra, Langhorne and Kramer accused some of the New York critics of decades later.

The Art Critic as The Naked Emperor

Kandinsky was mad – a couple of his symbolist artist colleagues (Böcklin and Stuck), had been called illiterate by a critic. He thought the critics were the illiterate ones and categorized most of them as “naked” or “half-naked”. To be considered “dressed”, he demanded that the critic would have the ability to convey the value of a painting to others. He could understand it to be difficult to value a work of art, during a period when there were new discoveries made, demanding more than usual of the critic, but still he wields his sword:

Everyone is free, says the magnanimous Mr. V.G. – the artist, the critic, the public. Well, let me take advantage of this freedom to tell all the above-mentioned critics and interpreters of modern art: You are naked! Cover your nakedness or stay at home, because it is immodest to appear in public without clothes on… With these words I simply appeal to the sense of shame which our critics, I imagine, still have.

Arnold Böcklin: The Isle of the Dead, 1880

As Hans Christian Andersen said, once upon a time there was a strange king. Imagining that he was dressed in luxurious clothes, he went about the streets naked, and the crowd greeted him, praising his clothes. And this happened simply because certain cunning people who had stolen all the expensive material for the king’s clothes said that only a fool could not see these clothes…


Kandinsky, pioneer of abstractionism, on show in Paris


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