Composition VI (1913)  by Wassily Kandinsky

Composition VI


Oil on canvas

76.8 × 118.1" (195.0 × 300.0 cm)

Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum

Comments of Kandinsky:

You can see two centers in the picture:
1. On the left there is a gentle, pink, slightly blurred center with faint, uncertain lines.
2. On the right (slightly higher than the left center) is a rough, red-blue, somewhat dissonant center with sharp, a little bit unkind, strong, very precise lines.

Between these two centers there is the third one (closer to the left center) which can be recognized only gradually but that is a major center. Here the pink and white colors foam in such a way that they seem to lie outside the canvas plane or some other ideal plane. Rather, they float in the air, and look like enfolded with steam. You can observe such an absence of the plane and uncertainty of distances, for example, in the Russian steam bath. A person standing in the midst of steam is not close and not far away, he is somewhere. The inner perception of the whole painting is defined by the main center situated “somewhere.” I worked a lot on this part until I reached the effect: at first it was just my vague desire, and then it became increasingly clear inside me.

Small forms of the painting demanded something producing a very simple and very wide effect at the same time ("largo"). For this I used long solemn lines which I have already used in the Composition 4. I was very happy to see how this device which I’ve used once before produces a completely different effect here. These lines connect to heavy transverse lines running to them deliberately at the top of the painting, and enter into a direct conflict with them.

To mitigate the impact of too dramatic lines or, in other words, to hide too intrusive dramatic element (to muzzle it), I let the whole fugue of pink spots of different shades play to the full. They indue great tumult with great peace, and give objectivity to the whole event. On the other hand, this solemn calm mood is violated by various blue spots giving an inner impression of warmth. The warm effect of the color that is cold by nature strengthens the dramatic element but again it is done objectively and exaltedly. Deep brown forms (especially on the top left) introduce an impacted note being expressed abstractedly that resembles an element of hopelessness. Green and yellow colors enliven this state of mind giving it the missing activity.

I used a combination of smooth and rough areas, as well as many other methods of the canvas surface treatment. Therefore, the viewer experiences new emotions going closer to the painting.
So, everything including the mutually contradictory elements became equal, so that none of them prevails over the others, and the original motive of the painting (the Flood) was dissolved and transferred to the internal, purely pictorial, independent and objective existence. There would be nothing more wrong than to stick a label of the original plot on the painting.

A tremendous disaster, which is taking place objectively, is an absolute and, at the same time, independent warm song of praise, similar to the anthem of a new creation following the disaster.

More from 1913


25 July 2019
Gretchen: I love this painting. The use of color and light and motion are absolutely arresting.
I really enjoyed reading Kandinsky’s own comments on this piece.
21 June 2016
luna from japan: what was the medium to create it
13 July 2013
Rachel from MS Gulf Coast: I have this print and was wondering if its worth having reframed?

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