Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Cossacks’ 1910–1
Wassily Kandinsky
Cossacks 1910–1

While the figures in these paintings are still recognisable, Kandinsky reduces them to a few urgent lines and small areas of colour.

Cossacks 1910–11, which relates to some of the sketches in the previous room, was acquired by Tate in 1938, prompting Kandinsky to write ‘It is the first truly modern painting in the famous museum in London.’ While it contains ‘traces’ of representation, he noted, the overall effect is like an abstract painting. These traces include the three soldiers with orange hats in the bottom right-hand corner and, dominating the upper left side, two rearing horses whose riders swing mauve sabres against each other.

Nude 1911, is a rarity: Kandinsky seldom depicted the single figure as the main subject of a painting, and it was even more unusual for him to paint nudes. Almost certainly a picture of his partner, Gabriele Münter, the image, with its spare depiction of the female form, may also be intended to evoke a broader vision of the feminine muse.