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Artistic Inspiration

Artist Series: The Musically Colorful World of Wassily Kandinsky

Art, unto itself, achieves the highest levels of audience adoration when the artist clearly communicates the meaning of the art piece. Integral to art is color – whether black-and-white, or highly chromatic. And for some, music and color are one, becoming a story within the art piece, a neurological phenomenon called "synesthesia." This rare condition occurs when one sense triggers another sense at the same time, such as light and sound. Some people with synesthesia may smell something when they see shapes or hear a sound.

For artist Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944), his synesthesia condition allowed him to see colors when he heard music – and to hear music when he painted. Music and color were bound together within his mind, and in turn, helped Kandinsky to create some of the most celebrated paintings we know today. To him, each musical note was associated with a specific color. He stated, “…the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with bass notes or dark lake with treble.”

Kandinsky abandoned his law career after having a highly unusual reaction to a performance called Lohengrin
by composer Wagner. He described the event as life-changing, “I saw all my colors in spirit, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.” Music played a critical role in the development of his paintings and many of these works were given musical titles such as Composition and Improvisation.

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Composition VI, 1913, by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), oil on canvas, 195x300 cm, Russia, 20th century. By De Agostini / V. Pirozzi

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Improvisation 11, 1910, by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), oil on canvas, 97x106 cm, Russia, 20th century. By De Agostini / V. Pirozzi

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Lyre,1907, by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Russia, 20th century. By De Agostini / V. Pirozzi

Color was also important spiritually to Kandinsky. He believed that art could provoke emotional, psychological and physical responses. Yellow, to Kandinsky, had the ability to disturb, while blue created an awakening of spirituality and spiritual awareness.

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Study for Blue Knight, by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Russia, 20th century. By De Agostini / V. Pirozzi

The marriage of art and color continues to influence us, and Kandinsky is one of many world-renowned artists who have provided foundations to inspire future generations of artists to push the boundaries of art and
color.

Images: Getty Images