Kandinsky's First Abstract Work?

Centre Pompidou

Aquarelle abstraite

Vassily Kandinsky

This watercolor, signed by Kandinsky and dated 1910 with the inscription "abstract watercolor" on the back, has long been considered the first abstract piece in the entire history of painting. 

However, today's experts believe that it actually dates from 1913 and that it was intended as a draft for an oil on canvas, Composition VII.

One question remains unanswered, however: is this merely an early draft, later fully realized in the oil work, or is it a study that came just before the completion of the composition, and therefore backdated by Kandinsky himself?

 The style of this watercolor and the management of space suggest that this piece is closer to the paintings done by Kandinsky in 1913. 

Made up of watercolor touches overlaid with black lines drawn with pen and ink, it dissociates the roles of drawing and color from one another.

The lines provide no outlines for the shapes, instead lending them a rhythmic sense of movement. This autonomy in the lines is only a feature of Kandinsky's work from 1911 onward.

The patches of color float in space in an liberated way. This is a common feature of works dating from after 1912: before then, the colors remained structured by images, which referenced Kandinsky's memory and personal recollections.

As such, this watercolor is more representative of the lyricism and vitality of Kandinsky's more mature oeuvre.

Untitled by Kandinsky, VassilyCentre Pompidou

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