Friday, June 4, 2010

June 4: Abstracts With Hidden Pictures? Considering Kandinksy

I've only heard the name Kandinsky; I'm not familiar with his works, but I find them really interesting. I'm basically going to copy some of images and texts from a  review by Magdalena Dabrowski on The Glyphs site.  She describes Kandinsky's (his first name was Wassily!) compositions as "the culmination of his efforts to create a 'pure painting' that would provide the same emotional power as a musical composition"

I've picked two for us to consider.

Title: Composition IV
Completed: 1911

Here's Dobrowski's description: (highlighting mine)

The painting is divided abruptly in the center by two thick, black vertical lines. On the left, a violent motion is expressed through the profusion of sharp, jagged and entangled lines. On the right, all is calm, with sweeping forms and color harmonies. We have followed Kandinsky's intention that our initial reaction should result from the emotional impact of the pictorial forms and colors. However, upon closer inspection the apparent abstraction of this work proves illusory. The dividing lines are actually two lances held by red-hatted Cossacks. Next to them, a third, white-bearded Cossack leans on his violet sword. They stand before a blue mountain crowned by a castle. In the lower left, two boats are depicted. Above them, two mounted Cossacks are joined in battle, brandishing violet sabers. On the lower right, two lovers recline, while above them two robed figures observe from the hillside. Kandinsky has reduced representation to pictographic signs in order to obtain the flexibility to express a higher, more cosmic vision. The deciphering of these signs is the key to understanding the theme of the work. An awareness of Kandinsky's philosophy leads to a reading of Composition IV as expressing the apocalyptic battle that will end in eternal peace. Composition IV works on multiple levels: initially, the colors and forms exercise an emotional impact over the viewer, without need to consider the representational aspects. Then, the decoding of the representational signs involves the viewer on an intellectual level. I find that I can no longer view Composition IV without automatically translating the imagery to representational forms. Yet this solving of the work's mysteries does not draw the life from it; rather, the original emotional impact is strengthened in a new way.

Title: Composition VI
Completed: 1913

Here is what Dobrowski says:

Standing below the six by ten foot expanse of Composition VI, the viewer cannot help but brace himself against the impending crash of a tidal wave of colliding forms and colors. And, in fact, the theme of this work is The Deluge. Kandinsky defined three centers to this Composition, which are discerned sequentially by the viewer. Initially, the eye is drawn to the pink and white vortex in the left center. The multiple lines representing torrential rain carry the focus to the right section, where a darker center of discordant forms and stronger rain lines adds to the tumult. From this second center, the eye slides to the lower center, where a blue form outlined in black cowers below the torrents of rain and crashing waves. In this work, Kandinsky has pushed further beyond representation to the very limits of abstraction.

I discovered these pics looking at the rooms in The Hermitage which is in St Petersburg Russia.

What I find interesting:

  • The images in the abstract
  • Why make the images abstract
  • The feeling of the pieces
  • The choices of the colors


  1. I love Kandinsky !! Very interesting post... How wonderful it must have been to see these in person at the Heritage.

  2. Oh I wish! I meant browsing online! :) Thank you, Sally, for your comments. You look at this more frequently than my hubby!

  3. I'm trying to make that up.

    This really was interesting. I thought we saw some of Kandinsky's work in a gallery in DC a number of years ago. I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure we did. Here's a link to a book on Amazon that you can browse a little bit of on line.