Listen to a Kandinsky

Discover the sights, and the sounds, of Kandinsky's synaesthetic 'Composition VII'

By Google Arts & Culture

Composition VII (1913) by Vasily KandinskyThe State Tretyakov Gallery

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Wassily Kandinsky was the first master of the abstract. This piece, Composition VII, is a visual cacophony of color! Or even, as Kandinsky himself called his paintings, a "color symphony".

Kandinsky closely followed the Theory of Color by German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which believed in the emotional power of strongly opposed colors like yellow versus blue and green versus red.

Green was, for Goethe and Kandinsky, the color of intellectual repose, the natural state of the mind. Reds and yellows communicated warmth, while blue was active and powerful. But, for Kandinsky, color was more than a visual experience...

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Because of his condition called 'synaesthesia', certain colors were experienced as sound - Kandinsky could hear color! For him, lemon yellows sounded like high trumpet lines.

"L'Art de Préluder" for Transverse flute by Jacques Hotteterre alias le Romain
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Blue was a particularly complex color in Kandinsky's soundscape. Lighter tones sounded to him like flutes.

Cello
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Deeper, richer blues had a cello sound.

Church organ
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And the darkest, deepest corners of the blue spectrum had, understandably, a low and heavy sound, like a double-bass or an organ. 

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All together, the rhythms, points, counterpoints, swells, and calms of these busy, active paintings sounded to Kandinsky like the "vibrations of the soul", an art of color and sound which chimed with his favourite music, like the compositions of Arnold Schoenberg

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