Wassily Kandinsky: Colorist, Symphonist

Yellow-Red-Blue (1925)

Given our recent project’s focus on making abstract representations of sound and the ideas it carries, Wassily Kandinsky seems to be a good artist to talk about. It is striking to see how, from nebulous patches of yellow, red, and blue slightly left of center, Kandinsky’s forms erupt into numerous forms, textures, and hues.

At first glance, if I had to choose a sound-related word to describe this work, I would say “cacophonic”–it seems like a jumble of incongruent elements clashing together. But, upon closer inspection, there is a sense of balance as well: for example, note how the concentrated, bright yellow on the left is echoed by a more mysterious, hazy yellow on the right border. Also, note how the violet vapor seemingly wrapping around lower-left side of the painting speaks sympathetically with the rich dark purple orb on the right. Meanwhile, certain shapes seem percussive and sharp, while others are long, winding, and lyrical. If anything, this painting is a vibrant symphony–albeit a complex one–and such a description seems fitting, as Kandinsky grew up playing the cello and piano and later befriended the monumental modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg (who, interestingly, was an avid amateur painter himself).

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