Winter Landscape by Wassily Kandinsky, 1909
Oil on cardboard 75.5 cm × 97.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
About the Art
Colour played a major role in Kandinsky’s progress towards abstract art. It is said that he once saw one of his paintings standing upside down against a wall and thought it ‘indescribably and overwhelmingly beautiful’ … it represented no recognizable object, it was exclusively composed of luminous patches of colour …’. The extreme colour contrasts and vertical and horizontal lines in this painting emphasise the work’s two-dimensional character. The yellow house in the centre stands out sharply against its dark surroundings. The blue, yellow and green brushstrokes in the sky are echoed in the foreground.
About the Artist
Kandinsky was a Russian-born artist, one of the first creators of pure abstraction in modern painting and is regarded as one of the originators of abstract painting, or abstract expressionism. His forms evolved from fluid and organic to geometric and, finally, to pictographic. Kandinsky, an accomplished musician, once said `Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.
In 1909 (the year in which he was one of the founders of the Neue Künstlervereinigung) Kandinsky began a series of Improvisations, in 1910 of Compositions, and in 1911 of Impressions; in these he eliminated all representational content to arrive—in about 1910—at pure abstraction. The choice of names, deriving from musical terminology, was significant, for like the Symbolists he was interested in analogies between colours and sounds (a great lover of music, he played the cello and piano and was a friend of Arnold Schoenberg, whose revolutionary atonality he equated with his own experiments). Kandinsky himself described how he came to recognize that colour and line in themselves could be sufficient vehicles for the expression of emotions; he returned to his studio one evening and failed to recognize one of his own paintings that was lying on its side, seeing in it a picture ‘of extraordinary beauty glowing with an inner radiance…Now I knew for certain that the subject-matter was detrimental for my paintings.’
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