Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) was a Russian artist who is most famous for being a pioneer of abstract art and for painting some of the earliest works in the genre including what is known as the First Abstract Watercolour. Art was deeply spiritual for Kandinsky and music was integral to many of his works. He was inspired by color and believed he could convey emotions through it. Kandinsky was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century and he has been called the Father of Abstract Art. Here are 10 of his most famous paintings including Yellow-Red-Blue, Several Circles and Composition VII.
#10 Black Lines
The period from 1910 to 1914 is considered the peak of the artistic achievement of Wassily Kandinsky and this painting is a fine example of his art at the time. It is one of the first of the artist’s truly abstract paintings. Kandinsky’s paintings just before the First Word War have been called “apocalyptic landscapes” and in this work he uses forceful black lines over vibrant colors to create what he called “dissonance”, to suggest destructiveness.
#9 Composition X
Music, being abstract in nature, was an inherent part of the art of Wassily Kandinsky. He named some of his spontaneous works as “improvisations” and elaborate ones as “compositions”. This painting is the last in his lifelong series of Compositions. It uses a black background to enhance the visual impact of the brightly colored forms in the foreground. Composition X is the most famous painting of the last phase of Kandinsky’s career when he aimed to create a spiritual resonance in the viewer and the artist.
#8 Several Circles
Kandinsky created numerous artworks on geometric forms and according to him, “the circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.” This cosmic painting with overlapping circles and harmonious colors is the culmination of his efforts to capture the importance of the Circle.
#7 Der Blaue Reiter
English Title: The Blue Rider
This painting is from Kandinsky’s pre-abstract period. It shows a speeding horse rushing through a rocky meadow possibly carrying a second figure, perhaps a child. Kandinsky shows the rider through colors rather than specific details. These techniques of making the user participate in creating the painting through imagination and using color for representation would later be used by Kandinsky in his abstract works. Der Blaue Reiter is an important painting in studying the artistic career of Kandinsky and it is the most famous artwork of his early career. Its fame has been enhanced because it shares its name with an influential group founded by Kandinsky and other like-minded artists.
Suprematism was a Russian art movement focused on portraying basic geometric forms in a limited range of colors. Bauhaus was a modernist art school in Germany which had a major influence on 20th century art, and where Kandinsky taught from 1922 to 1933. Yellow-Red-Blue, painted by Kandinsky during his time at Bauhaus, can be seen as a symphony he created by merging his style with Bauhaus techniques and suprematist ideas. It can be divided into two parts with geometric shapes and bright colors on the left and abstract shapes and dark colors on the right.
#5 First Abstract Watercolor
Year: 1910 – 1913
Wassily Kandinsky is most known for being a pioneer in non-figurative painting and for moving art away from the representational traditions of Western European art. This painting is an untitled work by Kandinsky which is now famous as the First Abstract Watercolor. It is credited by some to be the first purely abstract painting and it is definitely one of the firsts. In it, Kandinsky, for the first time, completely moved away from representational traditions and towards pure abstraction.
#4 Composition VIII
Constructivism was an influential modern art movement marked by constructing objects in artworks that didn’t exist in the world. This painting is a synthesis of elements from Suprematism, Constructivism and the Bauhaus school; and illustrates Kandinsky’s command over modern art of the time. Composition VIII with its rational geometric order is the polar opposite to the previous and more famed work in the series Composition VII. It is one of the most renowned works of the Composition series as well as Kandinsky’s Bauhaus period.
#3 Farbstudie Quadrate
English Title: Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles
Kandinsky was inspired by color and believed he could convey emotion through it without use of figures. He explored the emotional and expressionistic qualities of colors in many paintings. Also known simply as Concentric Circles, this painting is one of his most famous color studies and perhaps his most recognizable artwork. It plots out color combinations within concentric circular patterns arranged in an all over grid format. Farbstudie Quadrate can be seen as an organized investigation of perceptual effects of the interactions of colors and the emotional effect contrasting colors produce.
#2 On White II
Considered a milestone for 20th century Modern Art, this painting portrays different geometric forms in a magnificent color scheme. The painting is said to represent the opportunities of life with the color black used to represent death and how all those opportunities can be taken away. The white may also express peace while black may be used to portray nothingness. On White II is the most famous of the numerous abstract geometrical artworks of Wassily Kandinsky.
#1 Composition VII
The years 1910 to 1914 are considered the peak of Kandinsky’s career and this painting is cited as the pinnacle of his artistic achievement during the period. He made more studies for this composition than for any other, though he painted the final version in just three days. Composition VII is believed to allude to the apocalyptic themes of Deluge, Last Judgement, Resurrection and Paradise. A swirling hurricane of colors and shapes, it was considered by Kandinsky to be the most complex piece he ever painted and it is the most famous painting by the artist.