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Landscape with Two Poplars, 1912

Vasili Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Oil on canvas, 78.8 × 100.4 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Arthur Jerome Eddy Memorial
© The Art Institute of Chicago/Scala, Florence
© Vasili Kandinsky, VEGAP, Madrid 2020

 

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Thick strokes of pink, green, blue and yellow paint, irregularly shaped and of different lengths, have been distributed across this canvas in order to construct a landscape that has its origins in the artist’s own world of desires and fantasies. Kandinsky converts a country scene into a chromatic symphony. The oblique and consciously disarticulated composition serves to accentuate the artist’s interest in experimenting: not with objective nature, but with the motif of the trees swaying in the wind.

 

This work, which was given a place of honor at Alfred Barr’s 1936 exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art, refers to a Central European landscape with hills and groves. However, the perception of the painted image bears little relation to what was used as a motif with which to lyrically express an experience of revelation. Kandinsky explains as much with the following words:

 

Form is always temporary, that is to say, relative; as it is nothing more than the medium – which is nowadays necessary – in which the revelation itself is presented and resounds. The melody is therefore the soul of the form, which can only come to life through the melody and “operate” from the inside out.

 

The evocation of music is a constant in the work of Kandinsky. The distribution of forms in the painting’s space is reminiscent of the progression of musical notes in time, while the alternation and combination of colors is suggestive of harmony. Color, understood as the pure form of the expression of feelings, characterizes Kandinsky’s work and, in general, the creations of the German Expressionists.

 

Just one year after creating this work, Kandinsky founded the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter alongside the painter Franz Marc. An exceptional work by Marc is on display next to the painting by Kandinsky. Learning from the influence of the Fauvists and imbuing their paintings with an intense chromatic expressiveness, the group took the use of color to the next level: not only did it serve to express emotions, it was also completely disconnected from the natural word. Like other artists of their period, the Expressionists sought inspiration in creations far removed from the European academic tradition, such as medieval art, the creations of children, and naïf art.