Black Arch Symphony

Zoom on a musical abstract masterpiece

Mit dem schwarzen Bogen (Picture with a Black Arch) (1912) by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

Mit dem schwarzen Bogen

Vassily Kandinsky, 1912

During the autumn of 1912, whilst he was in Munich, Kandinsky created Picture with a Black Arch, an abstract oil painting representative of his pursuit of an autonomous and absolute composition, detached from the figurative world. 

Three colored masses—blue, purple, and red—are arranged into a triangle and set to collide with one another. The use of these colors is no coincidence: when mixed together, red and blue form purple.

 They are held together by an arched black line. This arch is evocative of an element of a horse harness: the duga, or shaft bow. 

The overall impression of movement is reinforced by the presence of black lines going in every direction. 

As he often did, here Kandinsky breaks the link between composition and medium by turning down the top left-hand corner of the painting with a sort of circumflex accent.  

The picture is constructed on the principle of dissonance that Kandinsky discovered in the musical composition of Arnold Schönberg.

Letter to Schönberg, January 18, 1911

“I believe that nowadays we cannot find our harmony in 'geometric' nature, but rather in the most antigeometric, illogical way possible."

"And this path is that of 'dissonance within art'—in painting as well as in music. And 'today's' pictorial and musical dissonance is nothing more than 'tomorrow's' consonance."

Kandinsky believed that the painter had to work in the same way as a composer. Instead of notes, they use color and shapes to create compositions that vibrate with the viewer's very soul.

The canvas was kept at the home of Gabriele Münter until 1926, when old lovers settled their accounts. After being temporarily stored at the König-Albert Museum in Zwickau that same year, it reappeared in a 1932 photograph taken in the house Kandinsky lent in Berlin for a few months. 

 It was then exhibited in 1933, in Paris at the Salon des Surindépendants, in 1937 in Paris, at the exhibition "Origins and development of independent international art" then in 1939, at the exhibition "New Realities", Galerie Charpentier .

Accompanying him in his exile in Paris, this composition will be featured in group exhibitions devoted to new developments in art organized during the 1930s. Nina Kandinsky donated this painting to the Musée national d'art moderne in 1976 for the opening of the Centre Pompidou in 1977.  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Sounds Like Kandinsky
The abstract artist Vassily Kandinsky’s world of sounds, shapes, and colors
View theme
Google apps