Explore the composition. Are there elements
that seem completely invented by the artist?
Do any aspects seem to refer to the observable
world? Explain your ideas.
Labarthé, Andre S. Portrait of an Artist, Volume
20: Kandinsky. RM Arts/60 minutes/color/
Lindsay, Kenneth C. and Peter Vergo, eds.
Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art. 2 vols.
New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1994.
Miriam Bader is education coordinator at the Solomon
R. Guggenheim Museum. Adapted from a selection from
the Permanent Collection Teacher Guide by Sharon
Vatsky (Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2003).
Kandinsky believed that it was possible to create a synthesis of several art forms, such as
music, color, and form within a painting. In
small groups, have students create their own
arts synthesis painting. Assign each group an
emotion such as joy, boredom, anger, etc. Each
group should consider what colors and shapes
convey the essence of the emotion. In addition,
groups should choose music from their own
collection that seems to have a similar intent.
Have the students share their paintings and
musical selection with the class. Did the piece
evoke the same emotion for everyone? Did one
element express the emotion better than others,
or did the combination help to illicit the feeling? Discuss the similarities and differences
between how the groups interpreted the various
SchoolArts November 2007
was coordinated by Hilla Rebay, an artist who
would later become the first director of the
Guggenheim Museum. Rebay introduced the
Guggenheims to nonobjective painting, which
she promoted above all other forms of abstraction. The Guggenheims would become one
of Kandinsky’s most enthusiastic supporters,
acquiring more than 150 works by the artist for
A Closer Look
The title of this painting, Composition 8, is suggestive of music. What type of music would suit
this painting? Describe some of the qualities
that this musical work would have.
Describe the way that Kandinsky uses color
in this work. Does it convey a particular mood,
feeling, sensation, or sense of place to you? Do
you have any personal associations with this
combination of colors?
Kandinsky believed that color can communicate ideas. In Concerning the Spiritual in Art,
he describes the expressive qualities he attributed to colors. According to Kandinsky, “blue is
heavenly and beckons the infinite” while “black
signifies termination and eternal silence.” Do
you agree with his color associations or do
these colors mean something else to you? Using
paint, have students experiment with mixing
colors and creating five colors that appeal to
them. For each color, students should write a
description of what the color means to them.
Display and discuss the color palettes. Compare
and contrast the way different students interpreted the same color. Are there conclusions
that can be drawn about how people respond to
Composition 8 was purchased by Solomon
R. Guggenheim during the spring of 1929 when
he and his wife, Irene, visited Kandinsky’s studio in Dessau, Germany. The European tour
In Composition 8, Kandinsky combines the
colorful, interactive geometric forms of the
circle, triangle, and line to create an expressive
surface that is alternately dynamic and calm,
aggressive and quiet. This work demonstrates
Kandinsky’s increasing reliance upon the
straightedge and the compass. In addition, the
important role of circles within Composition 8
foreshadows their significance in many subsequent works. “The circle,” claimed Kandinsky,
“is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It
combines the concentric and the eccentric in a
single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth
Kandinsky believed that art and music were
intrinsically connected. Have students select a
particular shape within Composition 8. If that
shape could make a sound, what sound would it
be and why? Interpret the painting like a musical piece, with students making their invented
sound for their selected shape. Following the
students’ invented symphony, play several selections of diverse styles of music. For each piece,
have students draw forms evoked by the music
on a separate sheet of paper. Display the drawings and discuss the similarities and differences
between them. As you view students’ work, are
there conclusions that can be drawn about the
relationship between sound and shape?