Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) holds a vital place in the history of modern art as a founder member of the groundbreaking Blue Rider group (der Blaue Reiter) and the progenitor of pure abstraction in painting. December’s monthly exhibition comprises six original woodcuts by the master dating from 1908 to 1912, a particularly formative and productive period in Kandinsky’s career.
Kandinsky first began to create woodcuts in 1902 during his involvement with the Munich-based arts association Phalanx. The woodcut technique played a particularly key role in his artistic development throughout the next decade as the flattened perspective and simplification of form inherent to the medium proved essential to Kandinsky’s evolution towards abstraction.
The exhibition includes ‘The Archer’, 1908-09, which was included in the deluxe edition of the ‘Blaue Reiter’ portfolio published in 1912, as well as five works dating from 1911 to 1912, originally created for ‘Klänge’ (Sounds) Kandinsky’s now seminal ‘musical album’ of woodcuts and poetry published in 1913. Seen as a group these six works clearly reveal Kandinsky’s progression away from representation and towards expressive abstraction with a focus on balance of form and colour. The motif of the horse and rider which features in three of the woodcuts was itself a symbol for Kandinsky’s desire to overcome objective representation and instead create a transformative art of spiritual values.
Later in life Kandinsky believed that his early woodcuts held a deep importance for a true understanding of his work and deserved to be better known. Thus he decided to produce a second edition of six of his finest woodcuts from the earlier Blaue Reiter period. These were printed in Paris in 1938 under Kandinsky’s supervision and issued with the prestigious French art review XXe Siècle. The six we own are from this 1938 edition.
These woodcuts feature in Hans K. Roethel’s catalogue raisonné of Kandinsky’s prints, and can be found in the collections of both the British Museum and the V & A. Prices range from £500 to £1250.