Vasily Kandinsky. Verses Without Words (Stichi bez slov). (1903)

Vasily Kandinsky

Verses Without Words (Stichi bez slov)


Portfolio of twelve woodcuts, one woodcut title page, one woodcut table of contents, one supplementary woodcut, and one woodcut colophon
composition: see child records; sheet: see child records; mount (each approx.): 12 15/16 x 9 13/16" (32.9 x 24.9 cm)
Stroganov Academy, Moscow
Stroganov Academy, Moscow
unknown (few copies of both the regular edition and the deluxe edition with supplementary woodcut [this ex.])
Gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd
Object number
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
There are 15 works in this portfolio online.
Vasily Kandinsky has 149 works online.
There are 19,627 prints online.

In the portfolio Stichi bez slov (Verses without words) Vasily Kandinsky leaves the modern world and all its distractions and sails away on Viking ships and down the Rhine to a fairy-tale world filled with gallant mounted riders, elegant ladies, peaceful landscapes, and onion-domed churches. Frustrated with his attempts at writing poetry in German, Kandinsky used these woodcuts to give shape to the nostalgia for his Russian homeland that he found impossible to put into words. As he explained to his companion, painter Gabriele Münter, "I must do them, for I cannot rid myself of my thoughts (or possibly dreams) any other way."

The imagery in these prints was central to the symbolic vocabulary that appeared throughout Kandinsky's work. Five of the woodcuts repeat previous compositions, and Kandinsky returned to five others in later prints and paintings. Most significantly, Kandinsky used the horse and rider motif, his symbol of a warrior for new art, for the first time here.

Kandinsky saw the woodcut medium as being akin to lyric poetry: both forms demanded concentration on the essential. Woodcut pushed him to simplify his imagery; his undulating lines and decorative patterns are in fact potent symbols of longing. These experimentations, prompted by the technical requirements of printmaking, played a crucial role in Kandinsky's development of abstraction.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Galleria del Levante, Milan; sold to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1966

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