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Theory of painting

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Title: Theory of painting  
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Subject: Aesthetics, Outline of aesthetics, Visual semiotics, David Prall, Stephen Pepper
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Theory of painting

The idea of founding a theory of painting after the model of music theory, was famously suggested by Goethe in 1807, and gained much regard among the avant-garde artists of the 1920s, the Weimar culture period, like Paul Klee.[1][2]

From Goethe to Klee

Goethe famously said in 1807 that painting "lacks any established, accepted theory as exists in music".[2][3] Kandinsky, in 1911, reprised Goethe, agreeing that painting needed a solid foundational theory, and such theory should be patterned after the model of music theory,[2] and adding that there is a deep relationship between all the arts, not only between music and painting.[4]

The comparison of painting with music gained much regard among the avant-garde artists of the 1920s, the Weimar culture period, like Paul Klee.[1]

Structural semantic rhetoric

The Belgian semioticians known under the name Groupe µ, developed a method of painting research called structural semantic rhetoric; the aim of this method is to determine the stylistic and aesthetic features of any painting by means of the rhetorical operations of addition, omission, permutation and transposition.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b Marcel Franciscono Paul Klee: His Work and Thought, part 6 'The Bauhaus and Düsseldorf', chap. 'Klee's theory courses', p. 246 and under 'notes to pages 245-54' p.365
  2. ^ a b c Moshe Barasch (2000) Theories of art - from impressionism to Kandinsky, part IV 'Abstract art', chap. 'Color' pp.332-3
  3. ^ Goethe 19 May 1807, conversation with Riemer
  4. ^ Kandinsky p.27
  5. ^ Winfried Nöth (1995) Handbook of semiotics pp.342, 459
  6. ^ Jean-Marie Klinkenberg et al. (Groupe µ) (1980) Plan d'une rhétorique de l'image, pp.249-68

See also


  • Kandinsky [1911] Concerning the Spiritual in Art, chapter The language of form and colour pp. 27–45
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