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

Verses Without Words (Stichi bez slov)

(1903)
Not on view
Medium
Portfolio of twelve woodcuts, one woodcut title page, one woodcut table of contents, one supplementary woodcut, and one woodcut colophon
Dimensions
composition: see child records; sheet: see child records; mount (each approx.): 12 15/16 x 9 13/16" (32.9 x 24.9 cm)
Publisher
Stroganov Academy, Moscow
Printer
Stroganov Academy, Moscow
Edition
unknown (few copies of both the regular edition and the deluxe edition with supplementary woodcut [this ex.])
Credit
Gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd
Object number
580.1966.1-15
Copyright
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Type
Portfolio

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.
Provenance information
Galleria del Levante, Milan; sold to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1966

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource