Wilhelm Worringers landmark study in the interpretation of modern art, first published in 1908, has seldom been out of print. Its profound impact not only on art historians and theorists but on generations of creative writers and intellectuals is almost unprecedented. Starting from the notion that beauty derives from our sense of being able to identify with an object, Worringer argues that representational art produces satisfaction from our objectified delight in the self, reflecting a confidence in the world as it is - as in Renaissance art.
By contrast, the urge to abstraction, as exemplified by Egyptian, Byzantine, primitive, or modern expressionist art, articulates a totally different response to the world it expresses mans insecurity. Thus in historical periods of anxiety and uncertainty, man seeks to abstract objects from their unpredictable state and transform them into absolute, transcendental forms. In his Introduction to Abstraction and Empathy, Hilton Kramer calls the book one of the key documents in the literature of modernism.
He considers the influence of Worringers thesis and places Abstraction and Empathy in historical context, showing how its ideas are very much alive today.