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.