Wassily Kandinsky’s Woodcuts: Early Representations of Non-Objective Imagery

28 February 2022

Anne Regina Grasselli, University of Edinburgh

Figure 1
Figure 1. Wassily Kandinsky, Schwarze Linien, 1913, oil on canvas, 130.5 x 131.1 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

For artist-theorist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), experimentation with line, form, and colour were critical in establishing a new, fully non-objective artistic style. The paintings he produced during the first decades of his career, for example, from 1896 until 1921, are generally characterised by their unrestrained expressions of bold, saturated colours (fig. 1), whereas those from his years at the Bauhaus, from 1922 through 1933, are typically geometric abstractions in which he focussed on combinations of lines, shapes, and colours (fig. 2). However, Kandinsky’s sensitivity to geometric form during his early artistic years is oftentimes overlooked, even though many of the works he produced during this time contain important hints of non-objective imagery that can be regarded as precursors to his later abstractions. A brief examination of three woodcuts from 1903, 1907, and 1912 shows how Kandinsky’s use of unmodulated shapes and spatial ambiguity indicates an early propensity towards non-objective renderings. Furthermore, these case studies demonstrate his heightened awareness of contemporary studies on the psychology of visual perception and a strong penchant for optical balance and repetition, which predated those facets of his later, more geometric works. Continue reading “Wassily Kandinsky’s Woodcuts: Early Representations of Non-Objective Imagery”

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