Weisser Klang, 1911
His move towards abstraction began with his philosophy about the nature of art, influenced by theosophy and mysticism. He did not reject representation, but held that the ‘pure’ artist seeks to express ‘inner’ feelings and ignores the superficial. He was one of the most active figures in the Blaue Reiter group and also took up a teaching post in 1921 in the Bauhaus until it was closed in 1933. He died in 1944.
Kandinsky’s Klänge forms part of a trio of seminal works (including Concerning the Spiritual in Art and the famous Der Blaue Reiter Almanac) all published between 1911 and 1912, generally considered the beginning of Kandinsky’s period of ‘creative genius’ which continued through to 1914 and the start of the First World War.
The word Klänge is German for ‘sounds’, and marks Kandinsky’s first exploration into the synaesthetic world of colour and music. The work itself is one of the more famous early examples of a ‘Livre d’Artiste’ (‘artist’s book’), in which Kandinsky combined short prose-poems with colour and black and white woodcuts designed to work in parallel with the writing.
The series revolves predominantly around the idea of spiritual ‘purity’ in art. Kandinsky noted that colour and music or speech were often referred to with the same notions of quality: ‘harmony’, ‘tonality’, ‘sonority’, terms with which both elements of colour or form in art and those of musical composition could be described.
Produced at a time of great change in the art world, the Klänge suite was heralded by many contemporary artists as a breakthrough work. For the Dada artist and abstract sculptor Hans Arp, the book remained a critical source of inspiration throughout his life: ‘Kandinsky has undertaken the rarest spiritual experiments in his poems. Out of ‘pure existence’ he has conjured beauties never previously heard in this world…In these poems we experience the cycle, the waxing and waning, the transformation of this world. Kandinsky’s poems reveal the emptiness of appearances and of reason.’
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