Kandinsky spoke 'language of color'

Russian-born artist Wassily Kandinsky changed the course of modern art forever.

ARS/ADAGP/Städtische Galerie/MoMA
Squares with Concentric Rings’ (1913), by Wassily Kandinsky. Watercolor, gouache, and crayon on paper, 9-3/8 by 12-3/8 in.

For Russian-born Wassily Kan­dinsky (1866-1944), color, line, and shape were a living language that spoke to his soul. Author of "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" (1911), Kandinsky spent a lifetime tuning up his paintings to make them sing. In pioneering purely abstract art, he changed the course of modern art forever.

On a trip to the Ukraine as a young man, he experienced something of an epiphany surrounded by the vibrantly painted interiors of peasant homes. It was the same thing he felt from seeing the intense color of Moscow churches and sunsets that, he recalled, "like a wild tuba, sets all one's soul vibrating."

When he became a painter at age 30, Kandinsky methodically studied the technical aspects and retinal effects of color and line, experimenting with "the language of color." For him, colors induced emotions. Yellow, he said, was "an intense trumpet blast by its nature springing from the painting." Blue suggested "a celestial sound that touches the depths."

"Color Study – Squares with Concentric Rings" (1913) is featured in New York's Museum of Modern Art's "Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925" through April 15. Here Kandin­sky juxtaposes cool colors (blue, green, purple) that seem to recede with warm colors (red, yellow, orange) that appear to advance. His object was to communicate in a universal idiom, a sort of visual Esperanto.

Lines and shapes also carried meaning. Squares are calm and triangles aggression. Enclosing "soft" curvy lines inside hard, straight squares – and setting colors that pop beside those that ebb – creates dynamic tension and makes the painting resonate.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Kandinsky spoke 'language of color'
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today