Wassily Kandinsky Study for Composition IV 1911

Wassily Kandinsky
Study for Composition IV 1911
Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne / centre de création industrielle. Bequest of Nina Kandinsky 1981

This room displays a selection of Kandinsky’s works on paper, a set of pieces that offer a fascinating insight into his working methods. This is particularly clear in the four small studies for Composition IV, dating from 1911. Taken together, these studies reveal how Kandinsky worked up the structure of a Composition, as distinctive pictorial elements are shifted from one position to another, appearing as recognisable figures in one sketch and as purely abstract in the next. The oil painting Cossacks 1910–11, in the following room, belongs to the same group, and combines apparently abstract forms with figurative details: the two strong black vertical lines in the studies, for example, become upright lances held by the Cossack soldiers.

Wassily Kandinsky Untitled, also known as 'Bagatellen' 1916

Wassily Kandinsky
Untitled (also known as Bagatellen) 1916
Private Collection, London

The watercolour Untitled, also known as Bagatellen 1916, shows Kandinsky, even at this later date, including clearly recognisable figures in his work. The painting, with its delicate pinks and greens, evokes fairy-tale images of old Russia. Ladies in crinolines appear again in Two Girls 1918 – one of Kandinsky’s fragile and rarely-exhibited glass paintings. Bavarian glass painting was one of the naïve forms of folk art that Kandinsky admired for its direct, expressive qualities and the luminosity of colour that could be achieved by painting on glass.