Painting With White Border (1913)  by Wassily Kandinsky

Painting With White Border


Oil on canvas

55.2 × 78.9" (140.3 × 200.3 cm)

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

One center on the left: a combination of standing shapes reaching the second center with pure powerful brushstrokes; red is rather agile, blue is withdrawn into itself (distinct concentric movement). Therefore, the means used are also extremely plain, quite explicit and clear.

The second center from the right: broad curving brushstrokes (which cost me hard work). Both outside and inside this centre has glowing (almost white) spikes which provide reminiscence of the vigorous “internal boiling” to the rather melancholic arc shape. This is damped down (making it exaggerated in a way) by dull blue tints which only occasionally acquire a more garish tint and which (taken together) surround the upper shape with more or less egg-like background. It is like a small independent world – not just a foreign body which is merely added to a whole but rather an upspringing flower. Along the edges I have elaborated this more or less egg-like shape so that it lies being distinctly open but it does not create too abrupt or strident effects: for example, I have made edges more defined at the top and less distinct at the bottom. A viewer whose eyes follow the edge experiences an inner emotion like rolling waves.

The two centers are separated and at the same time united by numerous more or less distinct shapes, some of which are merely spots of green. The use of so much green paint was absolutely unconscious and, as I feel now, purposeful: I did not wish to add too much anxiety to this clearly boisterous picture. I realized later that I had rather wanted to use anxiety to express quietude. I even used too much green, especially Paris blue (a dull orotund cold tint), and as a result it was only later that I managed to counterbalance and move off the excessiveness of these colors which was arduous work…

Guggenheim Museum · Vasily Kandinsky, “Painting with White Border,” May 1913

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