Kandinsky made these two works when he was a teacher at the Bauhaus, the innovative and influential modernist art and architecture school in Germany, where he began working in 1922. His work during this period was characterized by precise lines and dense groups of simple geometric shapes arranged without any central focus. In his writings Kandinsky analyzed the geometrical elements and the various ways that their color, placement, and interaction could affect the viewer, both physically and spiritually. He considered the circle to be the most elementary form, possessing a cosmic meaning.
Gallery label from Geo/Metric: Prints and Drawings from the Collection, June 11–August 18, 2008.
Russian-born painter Vasily Kandinsky's involvement with printmaking extends beyond the more than two hundred prints that he executed during his lifetime, to his work as an organizer, teacher, and art theorist. In 1901 he formed the Phalanx Society in Munich, an art school that sponsored exhibitions and provided a forum for printmaking. Ten years later, he co-founded the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group, which published an important almanac with essays and original prints. His own writings included Concerning the Spiritual in Art, in which he details his artistic philosophy of the psychology of color and the "inner necessity" of shapes and compositions, and Point and Line to Plane, which includes a description of the formal and sociological attributes of various print mediums.
Although he worked in a Moscow print shop in 1895, Kandinsky did not make his own prints until 1897. Between 1902 and 1904, he completed more than fifty woodcuts, including The Night, Large Version, which is typical of his romantic, fairytale-inspired images of the time. He soon began working on the fifty-six woodcuts for Klänge, which traces the voyage of Saint George and other knights on their search for truth. It contains the artist's own prose poetry and follows the evolution of his artistic style from figuration, inspired by Russian folk culture, to an expressionist abstraction.
Kandinsky's version of abstraction continued to develop in Russia under the influences of Suprematism and Constructivism. The result was a new, more rigidly geometric, abstract vocabulary that he took with him to Weimar in 1922, when he went to teach at the Bauhaus, the famed German art school. While there he made works such as Orange, which continued his exploration of lithography, the technique that he felt was the most modern print medium because of its malleability, ease of artistic execution, and ability to create large and uniform editions.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 84.