I have for many years searched for the possibility of letting the viewer “stroll” in the picture, forcing him to forget himself and dissolve into the picture.
Often, too, I have succeeded: I have seen it in the observers. From the unconsciously intended effect of painting on the painted object, which can dissolve itself through being painted, derived my ability to overlook the object within the painting. Much later, in Munich, I was once enchanted by an unexpected view in my studio. It was the hour of approaching dusk. I came home with my paintbox after making a study, still dreaming and wrapped up in the work I had completed, when suddenly I saw an indescribably beautiful picture drenched with an inner glow. At first I hesitated, then I rushed toward this mysterious picture, of which I saw nothing but forms and colors, and whose content was incomprehensible. Immediately I found the key to the puzzle: it was a picture I had painted, leaning against the wall, standing on its side. The next day I attempted to get the same effect by daylight. I was only half-successful: even on its side I always recognized the objects, and the fine finish of dusk was missing. Now I knew for certain that the object harmed my paintings.
A frightening depth of questions, weighted with responsibility, confronted me. And the most important: what should replace the missing object? The danger of ornamentation was clear, the dead make-believe existence of stylized forms could only frighten me away.
Only after many years of patient work, of strenuous thinking, of numerous careful efforts, of constantly evolving ability to experience painterly forms purely and abstractly—and to penetrate even deeper into these immeasurable depths—did I arrive at the forms of painting with which I work today, on which I work today, and which, I hope and desire, will develop much further.
It took a very long time before this question (What should replace the object?) received a proper answer from within me. Often I look back into my past and am desolate to think how much time I took for the solution. I have only one consolation: I could never bring myself to use a form which developed out of the application of logic—not purely from feeling within me. I could not think up forms, and it repels me when I see such forms. All the forms which I ever used came “from themselves,” they presented themselves complete before my eyes, and it only remained for me to copy them, or they created themselves while I was working, often surprising me. With the years, I have now learned somewhat to control this creative power. I have trained myself not simply to let myself go but to bridle the power working within me, to guide it. With the years I have understood that working with a pounding heart, with a straining breast (and thus aching ribs later), and with tension in my whole body cannot suffice. It can however only exhaust the artist, not his work. The horse bears the rider with strength and speed. But the rider guides the horse. Talent carries the artist to great heights with strength and speed. But the artist guides his talent. This is the element of the “conscious,” the “calculating” in his work, or whatever one wants to call it. The artist must know his talent through and through and like a smart businessman leave not the least bit unused and forgotten—instead he must exhaust, develop every particle to the maximum possible for him.
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