Yellow-Red-Blue by Wassily Kandinsky (1925)

Observe how Kandinsky merges the primary colours of yellow, red, and blue into complex clouds of colour. These features seem illogical – the colours overlap and intersect without a pattern, and form no clearly identifiable objects. In many respects, this liberty of movement was a synthesis of the many new artistic movements erupting in the 1920s. Movements such as Russian supramatism and the German Bauhaus school were revolutionary, captivating the artistic world with their fearless abstract compositions.

For many, Yellow-Red-Blue is simply a scholarly demonstration of the philosophy of the Bauhaus School. Kandinsky encorporated a number of the techniques used by this school into his work, notably in his use of primary colours, his juxtaposition of yellow and blue, and by opposing the opacity of his paint. However, to argue that Kandinsky was thoroughly committed to the Bauhaus movement would be to ignore the ways in which he flouted their strict rules. For example, the school argued that shapes and colours were closely asscoiated, and thus shapes had to be specific colours. Kandinsky clearly does not follow such guidelines in Yellow Red Blue – although one circle is grey, another is purple, and although one triangle is red, another is black (just to state a few examples).

Further detracting from the idea that Yellow-Red-Blue conforms to the Bauhaus manifesto is Kandinsky’s clear importation of other artistic philosophies of his time. For example, his flamboyant use of yellow, along with the red cross (right of centre) are both features that closely resemble those seen on the paintings of Malevich, the creator of the Suprematist movement. Similarly, the ‘checkerboard’ type squares that scatter across the right of the work seem to be a reference to Mondrian, another of Kandinsky’s contemporaries.

However, this is not to say that Kandinsky merely took snippets of ideas from his contempories to create his masterpiece. The artist was an innovator in his own right, and did in fact aim to do something utterly unique.  Kandinsky was fascinated by the association between colour and music, even going to far as to compose music to his paintings.  Through his seemingly infinite flow of diffusing and opposing colours, the artist sought to represent musical sounds. Just as a musician can provoke an emotional response from a viewer with merely sounds, Kandinsky hoped to produce art that alluded to emotions without the constraining influence of definite objects and physical boundaries.

In Yellow-Red-Blue Kandinsky invites us to experience a symphony of artistic styles of this time. This is a work where Bauhaus techniques, suprematist ideas, and his own artistic theology are married together. In this matrimony, shapes become celestial images, disappearing and reappearing as they flow through the canvas, changing colour and fighting one another for dominance. One can clearly experience Kandinsky’s belief that shapes and colours had the unique ability to explain the invisible and imperceptible. As the artist himself once wrote, the creation of a painting is the creation of a world.





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