Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism: explore the exhibition, room 5 Kandinsky

Lyubov Popova Construction 1920
Alexander Rodchenko Architectonic Composition with Solid Elements 1919
Alexander Rodchenko Design for a Kiosk 1919

One of the great pioneers of abstract art, Wassily Kandinsky was an influential figure in the early development of Constructivism, but his relationship with the younger generation of Russian artists became increasingly contentious. Rodchenko and Stepanova were particularly close to him, and moved into his apartment in 1919. Several of Rodchenko’s paintings from this period show the influence of Kandinsky’s brand of expressionism, notably Abstraction 1920. Another work, Composition no.117 1920 was a direct response to Kandinsky’s writings, with a sprinkling of coloured dots over one of Rodchenko’s characteristic black on black surfaces.

Kandinsky was appointed by the Bolsheviks to a number of prestigious cultural posts, notably the director of inkhuk. As part of his research programme, he circulated a questionnaire on how artists perceived colour and form. One of Popova’s studies in this room was made in answer to the questionnaire, along with the painting Construction 1920.

However, even in these sympathetic responses to Kandinsky, significant differences emerge. At his most abstract, Kandinsky still referred back to figurative elements, while Rodchenko and Popova’s works are entirely abstract. And the Constructivists came to reject Kandinsky’s emphasis on psychology, subjectivity and symbol. In December 1922 he left Moscow, never to return.