In my quest to better understand the radical shifts in the approach that some artists took, at the early part of the 20th century, I began to look a little closer at Wassily Kandinsky. In the "Blaue Reiter" by Hajo Duchting, there's a detailed account of the thoughts by Kandinsky and Franz Marc about the new direction and radical changes that led to the Blaue Reiter and later abstract art.
One quote exemplifies their thinking -
"clashing discords, loss of equilibrium
'principles' overthrown, unexpected drumbeats,
great questionings, apparently purposeless strivings,
stress and longing (apparently torn apart),
chains and fetters broken
(which had united many)
opposites and contradictions - this is our harmony"
Wassily Kandinsky, 1912
Naturally, when their almanac with their philosophy and exhibition finally saw the light of day, the initial reactions were 'negative and indeed even hostile. Favorable responses were limited: solidarity with the new aims extended no further than a small circle of artists, critics, collectors and museum directors. What is now recognized as a pioneering achievement by this small group of artists, as the advent of Modernism in Germany, in its own day appeared simply as a marginal event with no enduring influence upon the culture of Wilhelmine Germany.'