Bauhaus: The Importance of Shapes

Established since 1914, the correspondence between primary colors and shapes was at the heart of both Kandinsky's reflections and his teaching at the Bauhaus.

Centre Pompidou

Study for Im Schwarzen Viereck (1923-07) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

The artist sought to do away with a formalistic education, appealing instead to each student's abilities for perception and imagination. 

This marked the start of Kandinsky's most productive period, during which he would produce 289 watercolors and 259 paintings during his years at school.

Panel preparation for the Juryfreie Kunstschau (Jury-Free Art Show) in Berlin by students of Bauhaus in Weimar Panel preparation for the Juryfreie Kunstschau (Jury-Free Art Show) in Berlin by students of Bauhaus in Weimar (1922) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

At the Bauhaus, artists and artisans alike supervised the various studios together. " Master of forms " at the mural painting studio, Kandinsky taught both form and color equally in the preliminary common classes which constituted the touchstone of the revolutionary teaching program of the Bauhaus. 

Exhibition of work by students of Bauhaus in Dessau (c. 1926) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

He familiarized the students with the formal language of abstraction in both painting and drawing.

"Staatliches Bauhaus, Weimar", basic colour and shape questionnaires for students of the Weimar Bauhaus (c. 1923) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

He made use of questionnaires developed for the students of the INKhUK, the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow where his teaching program and his intuitive approach to the creative process had been rejected by the Constructivists.

Presented to the students as if it were a test of scientific data, these questionnaires asked them to associate the primary shapes—triangle, square, circle—with the three primary colors—yellow, red and blue.

Model of Pannel for the Exhibit of Juryfreie: Wall B (1922) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

As such, the triangle is yellow, the square red, and the circle blue : this was the result that gave rise to the compositions created on the walls of the school by the mural painting studio in 1923.

The dynamic relationship between the triangle, which symbolizes stability and ascension, and the circular form, which represents freedom from gravity, was emphasized to an even greater degree in his body of work by his use of contrasting colors. 

Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee on the terrace of the teacher's house in Dessau (c. 1930) by AnonymousCentre Pompidou

Some other principles of his lessons which blended theory with practice foreshadowed the establishment of the free painting studio that he would later direct with Paul Klee from 1927 in Dessau.

Auf Weiss II (On White II) (1923) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

In keeping with his search for an internal understanding, the first paintings he produced at the Bauhaus all leaned heavily toward weightless geometric shapes and primary colors. 

Such is the case in his painting On White II (1923), which would immediately be displayed in various cities around Germany. 

He also bolstered the graphic clarity of his compositions by tracing his circles with a compass and drawing his lines with a ruler. 

As the notions of point, the linear arabesque and splashes of color are related, they create an imaginative continuity which is both visible and universally metaphorical. Composition VIII (1923) is a masterful demonstration of this idea.

Gelb-Rot-Blau (Yellow-Red-Blue) (1925) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

After the Weimar period, which he designated as his " cold period " he dedicated the painting Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) to the theme of the correspondences between form and color with a composition that embodied the theory of spatialization induced by color in painting. 

This painting, the most important one of the entire Bauhaus period, marked a stylistic turning point with what Nina would call the " Circle Period ", between 1925 and 1928.

As Kandinsky wrote:
" Today, I love the circle just as in the past I have, for example, love the horse—perhaps even more so, as I find that the circle has more potential within it (…)"

the circle is " the sum of all the greatest opposites. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a unique and balanced shape. Of the three primary shapes (triangle, square, circle), it is the one which points most clearly toward the fourth dimension ."

Akzent in Rosa (Accent in Pink) (1926) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Accent on Rose, created the same year with an airbrush, a new technique used in the studios of the Bauhaus, exhibits an incredible subtlety of color.

Thanks to the delicate chiaroscuro effects obtained with the use of the airbrush, which lays the color on the surface with a great deal of subtlety, the canvas acquires a more cosmic dimension, reflecting the depth of the space.

Auf Spitzen (On the points) (1928) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky reinforced the effect of transparency to an even greater extent with On the points (1928), which he revisited time and again during his Bauhaus years, especially in Paris. 

Christian Zervos, the founder and director of the Cahiers d'Art whom he met in Dessau in 1927, committed to circulating Kandinsky's work in the publication as well as publishing his theoretical texts and his first monograph. 

Bild XII. Der Marktplatz zu Limoges (Paiting XII. Market Square in Limoges) (1928) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

During the same period, Kandinsky was responsible for the sets and staging for composer Modest Mussorgsky for " Pictures at an Exhibition ", the only one of his theatrical works ever to see the stage of a theater.

Orange Orange (1923) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky taught, exhibited and published articles in the journals published by the Bauhaus, the first edition of which was dedicated to his 60th birthday. 

Drawing for Point and Line on Plan (1925) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

His thinking evolved and unfolded in Point and Line to Plane, a contribution to the analysis of the pictorial elements, his second major theoretical treatise published in 1926 in the series of publications by the Bauhaus. 

Drawing for Point and Line to Plane (1925) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

He established therein the relationships of the point and the line with the surface, one of the key tenets of his lessons, and presented a new " science of art " which confirmed the major laws that apply to both art and nature.

Mies van der Rohe's music room at the exhibition of German architecture in Berlin Music room at the exhibition of German architecture in Berlin by BeckerCentre Pompidou

In 1932, Mies van der Rohe commissioned Kandinsky to create a ceramic wall decoration for a music hall. The artist had previously experimented with a similar synthetic piece in the space at the Juryfreie exhibition in 1922, tasking his students with creating the contribution. 

Développement en brun (Development in brown) (1933) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

During his time in Berlin, where the school had once again moved to as a result of political pressures, Kandinsky painted one of his last major works : the ghostly Development in Brown (1933), with its evocative color palette (brown being the color associated with the Nazis), brought together the results of his recent years of research on the effects of transparency obtained with the aid of an airbrush. 

Wassily Kandinsky in his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine in front of "Development in Brown" (1938) by Lipnitzki, BernardCentre Pompidou

Kandinsky would finish this large painting during the first few months of his exile in Paris. 

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