“Composition 8” by Kandinsky
“Composition 8” by Vasily Kandinsky (also spelled Wassily) is a composition of geometric elements with erratic and unpredictable positions and colors. Kandinsky has restricted himself to paint geometric shapes, with larger objects dominating the left side of the canvas, and on the right, the smaller forms clash and overlap with each other. The shades of color are all different from each other, and the geometric patterns consist of only critical components like circles, semicircles, angles, rectangles, and lines.
Composition 8 was created, during Kandinsky’s Bauhaus era, when he had moved from the Soviet Union to the Weimar Republic because of the increasing restrictions on artistic freedom in the Soviet Union. The Weimar Germany of the early 1920s in which Kandinsky painted Composition 8 was transitioning into a democratic republic and was one of the most liberal countries in Europe. The Bauhaus era provided a nurturing environment for the avant-garde that inspired Kandinsky.
The Bauhaus was a German art school that combined crafts and the fine arts and was famous for the approach to design. The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar and served from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, architecture, and art. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence on subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.
The school operated in three German cities, Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin, from 1932 to 1933, after which the school was closed under pressure from the Nazi regime, who saw the school as a center of communist intellectualism. Although the school was closed, the staff continued to spread its idealistic precepts as they left Germany and emigrated all over the world.
Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France, where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art.
Composition 8’s most prominent feature is the purple circle within a black circle within a double-layered halo of pink and orange, in the top-left corner of the canvas. The blurred edges of the halo, similar in appearance to the corona surrounding an eclipsed sun, are in contrast to the black circle with its purple core. The blurred halo appears around four circled on the left of the canvas. Interesting, there were several solar eclipses between 1921 and 1923, with two occurring in the year of Composition VIII’s creation, which may have been an inspiration for the circles with their coronas.
Wassily Kandinsky is credited with painting one of the first recognized purely abstract works. Born in Moscow, he studying law and economics and began painting studies at the age of 30. Kandinsky was unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Communist Moscow and moved to Germany in 1920. There, he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France, where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art.
- Kandinsky lived in and experienced Russia before and after the Russian Revolution.
- Did the Solar Eclipses during the creation period of this painting influence some of the objects in the composition?
- How did the revolutions in both Russia and Germany impact Kandinsky’s art?
- What can you see in this Kandinsky painting?
- Title: Composition 8
- Alternative: Composition VIII
- Artist: Vasily Kandinsky or Wassily Kandinsky
- Created: 1923
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 140 cm (55.1 ″); Width: 201 cm (79.1 ″)
- Museum: The Guggenheim
- Name: Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky
- Russian: Vasily Vasilyevich Kandinsky
- Russian:: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Канди́нский
- Born: 1866 – Moscow, Russian Empire
- Died: 1944 (aged 77) – Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
- Nationality: Russian, later French
- Movement: Expressionism; abstract art
- Notable work:
A Tour of the Guggenheim
- “Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Blue Painting” by Vasily Kandinsky
- “Improvisation 28 (2nd version)” by Vasily Kandinsky
- Landscape with Factory Chimney by Wassily Kandinsky
- Composition 8 by Kandinsky
- “The Yellow Cow” by Franz Marc
- Dreaming Horse by Franz Marc
- Stables by Franz Marc
Wassily Kandinsky Quotes
‘The more abstract forms, the more clear and direct its appeal.”
“The arts are encroaching one upon another, and from proper use of this encroachment will raise the art that is truly monumental.”
“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and color, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”
“Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body.”
“An empty canvas is a living wonder… far lovelier than certain pictures.”
“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”
“I value those artists who embody the expression of their life.”
“Color is a means of exerting direct influence on the soul.”
“That is beautiful, which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.”
“There is no must in art because art is free.”
“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.”
“Everything starts from a dot.”
Photo Credit 1) Wassily Kandinski [Public domain]