Tag Archives: analysis

A Closer Look at Kandinsky…


After doing quite a bit of my own research in response to our 2nd class discussion of Kandinsky’s 1913 painting “Composition VII”, I became fascinated by this non-objective style of expression he developed.  I became more intrigued as I was reading all of the insightful comments throughout the discussion threads and thought I would share some of the pieces of the puzzle that I thought could shed more light on his message.   A bit of background… Wassily Kandinsky was born in 1866 in Moscow and painted this work when he was about 45 years old. At the age of 30, he moved to Munich where he began his career as an artist and eventually started his own school. In a writing by M.K Lacoste, he was considered the founder of abstract art, which you can see in the development of his styles below.

“Odessa Port”
Oil on canvas painted in 1898.

“Forested Edge”
Painted in 1903.

“Couple Riding”
Oil on canvas painted in 1906.

“Blue Mountain”
Oil of canvas painted in 1908 – 1909.

“A Mountain”
Oil on canvas painted in 1909.

In comparing some of his more identifiable paintings, I could see the abstraction of these objects in his more non-objective works:

“Angel of the Last Judgment”
Oil on cardboard painted in 1911.

“Angel of the Last Judgment”
Glass painting in 1911.

“The Last Judgment”
Painted in 1912.

“Small Pleasures”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Glass Painting with the Sun (Small Pleasures)”
Glass painting in 1910.

He had traveled extensively throughout Europe, and tensions were beginning to build as society was on the brink of its first World War.  I begin to see hints of this growing concern in some of the following works, which then seem to trickle into or out of (depending on the order in which these paintings emerged) the images we see in “Composition VII”…

“Improvisation 30 (Cannons)”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Improvisation 31(Sea Battle)”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Rider of the Apocalypse”
Tempura on glass painted in 1911.

In the bible, where you would find the prophecies of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation (Chapter 6) talks about the riders that Kandinsky painted in 1911.

Revelation 6:1-6

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.   When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages,[b] and six pounds[c] of barley for a day’s wages,[d]and do not damage the oil and the wine!”.

So here it is once again, “Composition VII” in all of its 6 ft. x 10 ft. splendor.
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

All of these elements combined, I look at “Composition VII”, and I can see the arrow across the middle of the painting. From some of his other abstractions, landscapes with trees and forests; battling shapes and colors; horses and faces, smoke and clouds all seem to emerge in areas throughout the piece. His use of color values ranging from somber dark areas that move diagonally into lighter and brighter regions remind me of that spiritual warfare possibly being depicted here.  The Book of Revelation is filled with imagery that could find its place in this painting if that is truly the path where Kandinsky is leading us.  It’s simply one theory of many, but what I love most is that the creativity in this work does not end with the artist signing his name.  It continues on through all of us in our impressions and possibly even inspirations in our own emerging works…