Improvisation #29 (The Swan) (1912)  by Wassily Kandinsky

Improvisation #29 (The Swan)


Oil on canvas

41.7 × 38.2" (106.0 × 97.0 cm)

Philadelphia. Philadelphia Museum of Art

In 1908-1909, after fully understanding and being through with symbolism and fauvism, Kandinsky begins getting rid of any art movements’ influences and, groping, finds his own way. This process, first of all, meant for him freeing the colour, shapes and lines from concreteness. People, houses and landscapes in his paintings become less and less recognizable, more and more abstract. First Abstract Watercolor, painted in 1910, is a very significant work in this sense. In the same 1910 he wrote his treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art in which he built the philosophic foundation of his own art with a scientist’s diligence and a painter’s poetry.

Indistinct perspective and lack of horizon in this watercolour, on the one hand, flatten and distort the perceived, on the other hand, they unite and organize. We still guess shapes of stones, plants and birds among the harmony of the subtlest colour blends. Shall we decipher the symbols (it’s not in vain that a “swan” is included in the title) or take in the work purely and objectlessly (“classical” perception of abstractions)? The answer to this question can only be found in the eye of the beholder.

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