Hard in Soft (1927), a work by Wassily Kandinsky

Hard in soft (1927/1927) by Wassily KandinskySezon Museum of Modern Art

The period during which Kandinsky was teaching in the Bauhaus (1922-1933) was rewarding for him as an artist and art critic.

In this period, he was committed to practicing and writing his art theory as represented in a number of masterpieces, including Composition VIII and the book, Point and Line to Plane (1926).

Not the entire environment, however, was perfect for Kandinsky. While he was a central figure at the Bauhaus, a field for education where many artists such as Pau Klee,

and Johannes Itten gathered, the Nazi regime pressured the Bauhaus to move from Weimar to Dessau, and then to Berlin. Hard in Soft was produced in 1927 when the Bauhaus was in Dessau.

Kandinsky produced a number of paintings composed of geometric elements in the 1920s. The composition of overlapping figurations, such as circle, triangle, and lines crossing in a right angle, combined with rich colors reminds music, which Kandinsky used as his motif.

The contradictory title of the painting containing words “soft” and “hard,” both expressing feel of touch, seems to suggest the relation between figurations and colors of the painting. The artist aimed to integrate different senses of sight, hearing and touch in the work.

Viewers feel the motion moving from the bottom to the top of the painting, which the artist meticulously designed solely with geometric figurations such as straight lines, arches, circles, triangles, and rectangles.

The large milky-white circle and triangles touch each other around the center of the painting as if to create tension.

The similar triangle-circle relation is repeated several times in the painting. The balance of three circles, two milky-white ones and a small one, and their positioning slightly set away from the center represent Kandinsky’s core competence of carefully designed picture composition

As in cases of many other master pieces, Hard in Soft has been passed from one owner to another.

First owned by Galerie Neue Kunst Fides in Dresden, which introduced Bauhaus artists in Germany, then by Sidney Janis Gallery in New York on the other side of the Atlantic, the painting was acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation having treasured collection of Kandinsky.

The painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1964 and bought by Nathan Cumming, a collector known for his impressionist paintings. The painting subsequently belonged to a few collectors and galleries after Cummings and was finally acquired by Sezon Museum of Modern Art in the 1980s.

About five years after Hard in Soft was finished, the Bauhaus was pressured by Nazi to move from Dessau to Berlin in 1932 and was closed in 1933 by dissolving itself. Bauhaus lecturers left Germany. Moholy Nagy moved to the United States while Paul Klee returned to Switzerland.

On the advice of Marcel Duchamp’s advice, Kandinsky defected to Paris. In his last years in Paris, Kandinsky produced a series of abstract paintings with complicated organic figurations replacing geometric compositions.

Credits: Story


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