Study for On White II, 1922 by Wassily Kandinsky


Study for On White II, 1922


Wassily Kandinsky

Ref RT42303-E1
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A canvas from the Bauhaus period that the Kandinskys had hung in their dining room in Dessau, ‘Study for On White II’ is the rework of a 1920 canvas and its theme of intercepting diagonals. However, it also recalls certain paintings of the 1910s that presented the confrontation of pictorial elements, a gigantomachy of lines and colours, like the events taking place on the canvas. Here we witness the tension between the two diagonals emanating from an almost square background, the whiteness of which gives the painting its title. On this note, we are reminded of Malevitch’s white squares, but also of what Kandinsky himself said of his backgrounds: I learned to struggle with the canvas, to recognize it as an entity opposed to my wishes, and to force it to submit to these wishes. At first, it stands there like a pure, chaste maiden, with clear gaze and heavenly joy—this pure canvas that is itself as beautiful as a picture. And then comes the imperious brush, conquering it gradually, first here, then there, employing all its native energy, like a European colonist who with axe, spade, hammer, saw penetrates the virgin jungle where no human foot has trod, bending it to conform to his will. In ‘Study for On White II’, the whiteness of the pure canvas is enhanced by the white background, a whirlpool of forces arising from its surface. Due to this centripetal movement, these forces are organised into a duality of black lines. Kandinsky has achieved a general clarity due to the simplicity of the components, as if his struggle with the canvas had ended in the realisation of his wishes.