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Modern Landscapes

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 the wildly radiant countryside in Vasily Kandinsky’s Picture with an Archer, 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, bulbous mountains, and a bent spire in the picture’s center. The painting‘s abstract, patchwork surface and 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 suffuse the scene with a sense of folktale or fantasy. When he painted Picture with an Archer, Kandinsky was living in Germany, far from his native Russia. He made a number of visits to the small town of Murnau, in the south Bavarian Alps, famous for its local folk art, especially paintings on glass. Kandinsky collected these paintings and perhaps felt particularly at home in Murnau, which was similar to the rural towns he knew in Russia.

Two years before he made Picture with an Archer, Kandinsky wrote an influential text in which he laid out an argument for abstraction. While the painting portrays a recognizable landscape scene, it reflects his increasing movement toward pure abstraction.

A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

The context or environment in which a situation occurs.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

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.

What a figure is wearing.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.

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