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Landscapes: Real and Imagined

Discover groundbreaking techniques in early modern landscape paintings.


Picture with an Archer

Vasily Kandinsky
(French, born Russia. 1866–1944)

1909. Oil on canvas, 68 7/8 x 57 3/8" (175 x 144.6 cm)

Galloping under the trees of a wildly radiant countryside, a horseman turns in his saddle and aims his bow. In the left foreground stand men in Russian dress; behind them are a house, a domed tower, and two bulbous mountains, cousins of the bent spire in the picture’s center. The abstract, patchwork surface and nearly vibrating, vivid colors nearly overwhelm the figurative forms—so much so that the scene may be hard to make out.

The lone rider with his archaic weapon, the traditional costumes and buildings, and the rural setting suggest a note of fantasy, folktale, or poetic romance. There is perhaps nostalgia here for a faraway time or place; when he painted this, Kandinsky was living in Germany, far from his native Russia. But he made several visits to a small town called Murnau in the south Bavarian Alps. Famous for its local folk art, especially paintings on glass, which Kandinsky collected, Murnau was similar to the small rural towns that Kandinsky knew while practicing law in his native country.

The context or environment in which a situation occurs.

An area, generally agricultural, that is not densely populated.

The shape or structure of an object.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

Representing a form or figure in art that retains clear ties to the real world.

In architecture, a hemispherical roof or ceiling.

What a figure is wearing.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.