German Expressionism

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R. Piper & Co., Munich

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About this work

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Vasily Kandinsky's self-described "musical album," Klänge (Sounds), consists of thirty-eight prose-poems he wrote between 1909 and 1911 and fifty-six woodcuts he began in 1907. In the woodcuts Kandinsky veiled his subject matter, creating increasingly indecipherable images (though the horse and rider, his symbol for overcoming objective representation, runs through as a leitmotif). This process proved crucial for the development of abstraction in his art. Kandinsky said his choice of media sprang from an "inner necessity" for expression: the woodcuts were not merely illustrative, nor were the poems purely verbal descriptions. Kandinsky sought a synthesis of the arts, in which meaning was created through the interaction of, and space between, text and image, sound and meaning, mark and blank space. The experimental typography shows his interest in the physical aspects of the book.


Klänge is one of three major publications by Kandinsky that appeared shortly before World War I, alongside Über die Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) and the Blaue Reiter almanac, which he edited with one of the group's cofounders, Franz Marc. Fearing poor sales, Munich-based Reinhard Piper only reluctantly published Klänge, and Kandinsky had to guarantee the production costs. More than two years after its release, Klänge had sold fewer than 120 copies. The planned Russian version never materialized. The publication was nevertheless influential on other avant-garde artists, and Futurists in Russia and Dadaists in Zurich recited and published some of the poems.

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

Vignette next to "Exit" (Vignette bei "Ausgang") (headpiece, folio 36) from Klänge (Sounds)

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The artist
Woodcut from an illustrated book with fifty-six woodcuts
composition (irreg.): 2 5/8 x 3 1/16" (6.7 x 7.8 cm); page: 11 1/16 x 10 7/8" (28.1 x 27.7 cm)
Cream, smooth, laid (Van Gelder Zonen).
R. Piper & Co., Munich
Poeschel & Trepte, Leipzig
Book: 300 (signed and numbered); 45 h.c.
Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Roethel 123. Rifkind 1368.
MoMA Number:
Literary Subjects

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