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Anabela Mendes

Pulsating Visions Idioms Incarnate:


Wassily Kandinsky Amidst Stage, Pen and Brush


Research on the work oI Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) allows us to realise that his gradually consolidated
tendency to claim Ior an art that represents the 'spiritual, together with his Iormal option Ior a growingly abstract
type oI painting, is grounded on a Iormative experience that combines a variety oI reIerences, discourses and Iorms
oI knowledge. This is tantamount to acknowledging that Kandinsky`s work as a painter is duly balanced and
complemented by his theoretical reIlections on art.
This article aims to compare a Iew instances oI Kandinsky`s pictorial art (sketches and paintings Irom 1907 to
1912), prose poems (1912), and compositions Ior the stage (1908-1909, 1914) all produced during the Munich
and Murnau period. His artistic development was then especially stimulating, inIormed as it was by a project oI
reIlection on the perIormative arts characterised by versatility and by a sharp awareness oI the dialogue between
painting and the other arts.



It has been said countless times that it is impossible to deIine the aim oI a work oI art by way oI
words. And despite a certain superIiciality with which this aIIirmation is oIten made, it is generally
correct and will remain so even in an age oI specialised training and knowledge oI language and its
properties. This aIIirmation I take leave now oI all objective criteria oI evaluation is correct precisely
because the artist himselI never succeeds in apprehending or recognising Iully his own goals.
And to conclude: the best words possible miserably Iail when Iaced with what is kept in an
embryonic state. (.)
I do not wish to paint music.
I do not wish to paint various states oI soul.
I do not wish to paint either with colour or without colour.
I do not wish to alter, decry or demolish a single aspect oI what constitutes harmony in the
masterpieces oI the past.
I do not wish to reveal to the Iuture its true paths.
1



1.

In January 1914 the Cologne Art Circle (Kreis Ir Kunst Kln), a privately run organisation
with no rigidly set cultural agenda (and modelled on turn-oI-the-century Parisian Salons),
chose to present a solo exhibition oI the artist Kandinsky in the fover oI the Deutsches
Theater in Cologne. The promoters oI this initiative requested the painter`s presence at the
opening in order to speak about himselI and his work. The Iirst artist to be invited by the
Circle was in Iact already a key Iigure in Germany`s most avant-garde artistic milieus.
Furthermore, he, along with Franz Marc, had previously appeared as co-author oI an
almanac entitled Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1912, which would see a second
edition as early as 1914. In this work, a trans-disciplinary and trans-historical conception oI

1 From Wassily Kandinsky`s Cologne Lecture, 1914. This text, Iirst published in 1957, can be Iound in its
complete Iorm in Wassily Kandinsky, Mein Werdegang (My Future Path), in Kandinskv Die Gesammelten
Schriften, vol. 1, ed. by Hans K. Roethel and Jelena Hahl-Koch (Bern: Bentelli, 1980), p.58.
346 Anabela Mendes



art is deIended, a conception which Kandinsky supported enthusiastically and to which he
would devote himselI thoroughly in his artistic practice, theorising and teaching Ior many
years to come.
The extraordinary success that Kandinsky knew as a writer during this period is Iurther
seen in his Iirst theoretical work, ber das Geistige in der Kunst, insbesondere in der
Malerei (On the Spiritual in Art), published in 1912.
2
In Iact, this publication would be the
object oI two new editions later that same year. Also in 1912 the Munich-based editor F.
Bruckmann would publish an impressive album oI thirty-eight prose poems, twelve colour
and Iorty-three black and white wood-carvings, all by Kandinsky, entitled Klnge (Sounds),
and dedicated by this multi-Iaceted artist (painter, wood-carver and poet) to his parents.
3

Despite his having Ielt honoured by the Cologne Art Circles invitation, Kandinsky
declined to appear publicly at the inauguration oI the exhibit oI his work on 30 January
1914. Instead, he sent an explanatory outline oI his paintings as well as a typescript entitled
Mein Werdegang (My Development) to the event organisers, Mr. Kames and Mr.
Livingstone Hahn, which the artist wished to be presented publicly in his name.
According to the exhibit promoters, the account oI the evening`s event sent to
Kandinsky on the day Iollowing the inauguration reported that the public`s response to his
artwork had been unexpectedly enthusiastic although the painter`s high prices had driven
away potential purchasers oI his work. The public`s general response to the reading oI
several oI the poems comprising the Sounds album was, however, less than Iavourable
while the response by the more specialised critics was divided between extreme praise and
vitriolic disdain.
4

The typescript prepared by Kandinsky expressly Ior the exhibit had in Iact not been read
to the public and has been subsequently lost. Mr. Livingstone Hahn had decided to
disregard altogether Kandinsky`s text, providing instead a brieI historical account oI realist
and spiritual painting in general, believing such an account to be more to the public`s taste.
Mr. Kames would later seek in vain the painter`s permission to publish the Cologne
Lecture. The original document would not be printed until 1957,
5
and is today considered to

2 Although the Iirst edition oI On the Spiritual in Art, dedicated to the theoretician and painter`s aunt and Iirst
teacher, Elizabeth TichejeII, is dated 1912, this work was in Iact Iirst published by R. Piper & Co. oI Munich
in December 1911. OI interest is the editor`s introduction to the republished volume. Max Bill (ed.), Wassily
Kandinsky, ber das Geistige in der Kunst (Bern: Bentelli, n/d), p.7. Subsequent reIerences to this work will
be designated by the abbreviation GK.
3 The poetic work entitled Sounds was not published again according to its original conception. For Iurther
discussion on this matter, see Hans Konrad Roethel`s Kandinskv. Das graphische Werk (Kln: DuMont
Schauberg, 1970), pp.445-447. See also Anabela Mendes, Jolumetrie, Klangbild und Farbe im poetischen
Werk Klnge von Wassilv Kandinskv. Paper given at the 2
nd
International Congress oI the APEG, School oI
Letters, University oI Oporto, 2001, p.1. (in press)
4 Kandinsky was inIormed in writing by the directors oI the exhibit oI the impact caused by the event in two
letters dated 31 January 1913 and 5 February 1914. Roethel/Hahl-Koch, pp.173-174.
5 The 22-page manuscript can be Iound in archives located in Munich. The Iirst page is, however, missing Irom
this manuscript. The surviving text was published Ior the Iirst time in: Johannes Eichner, Kandinskv und
Gabriele Mnter.Jon Ursprngen moderner Kunst (Mnchen: Bruckmann, 1957), pp.106-109, 124-125. See
also Roethel and Hahl-Koch, p.172.
Pulsating Jisions Idioms Incarnate 347



provide Iundamental insights into the artist`s development Irom representational to abstract
painting.
This summary recounting oI cultural and artistic misadventures during Kandinsky`s
career would not be oI great signiIicance were it not Ior the Iact that such occurrences lead
us to reIlect upon the possible motivations which subsequently led the artist to produce an
ongoing and systematic theoretical and aesthetic account oI his work.


2.

Despite his surprising and unexpected success as published author in the years between
1911 and 1914, Kandinsky Ielt he was sorely misunderstood and considered himselI to be
both proIoundly isolated and a beacon Ior enemies. In a letter dated 22 December 1911
addressed to Franz Marc (an artist with whom he would have innumerable diIIerences oI
opinion), Kandinsky expresses his discouragement caused by the critics` reaction to The
Blue Riders most recent exhibit: 'II you could only imagine how diIIicult it is Ior me at
times to endure the hate that continually beIalls me.
6
Years later, while reminiscing about
his experiences in the artistic milieu in general, Kandinsky would reiterate his belieI that he
had conIronted the concept oI abstraction in art as well as the underlying spiritual
transIormation it entails in a solitude oI the most absolute sort.
7

It is saIe to inIer that his path as artist and theorist was in part stimulated by the
disparaging and less-than-perceptive reactions published by the specialised critics; reactions
which, in turn, led to his exclusion Irom institutional legitimacy during the period preceding
the First World War.
8
Moreover, iI the artistic activities by the group Iorming The Blue
Rider were oI the meteoric kind, albeit possessed oI an undeniable incandescence,
9

Kandinsky`s own artistic evolution towards abstractionism represents unquestionably a
painstaking and highly demanding apprenticeship during which reIlection and
experimentation daily intermingled. Besides being a Iorm oI legitimate response to the
chorus oI his denigrators, the artist`s theoretical and essay writings express his strong
convictions concerning the ontological basis oI art. The reciprocity between theory and
practice, between logical thinking and intuition-based thought processes, between reason
and Ieeling was, according to Kandinsky, intrinsic to the very genesis oI the work oI art and
to its essentially cosmic character.

6 Klaus Lankheit (ed.), Wassilv Kandinskv/Fran: Marc. Briefwechsel. Mit Briefen von und an Gabriele Mnter
und Maria Marc (Mnchen, Zrich: R.Piper, 1983), p.84.
7 See Kandinsky`s letters to Thiemann (17.12.1934) and to Hilla Rebay (16.12.1936) in: Reinhard
Zimmermann, Die Kunsttheorie von Kandinskv, vol. 1 (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 2002), pp.66-67.
8 For Iurther discussion oI this matter, see Luzius Eggenschwyler, Der wissenschaftliche Prophet.
Untersuchungen :u Kandinskvs Kunsttheorie unter besonderer Bercksichtigung seiner :weiten theoretischen
Hauptschrift 'Punkt und Linie zu Flche (Zrich: unpublished B.A. dissertation, 1991), p.42.
9 The socially non-engage, provocative and radical way in which the two exhibits were organised by The Blue
Rider group in Munich in January 1909 and September 1910 should not be Iorgotten. These exhibits were
connected to the Neue Knstlervereinigung Mnchen NKVM (New Association oI Artists) and represent a
major break with the predominant academicism oI that period.
348 Anabela Mendes



In the aIorementioned Cologne Lecture, which, as has been stated, the public present at
his inaugural exhibit oI 1914 did not hear, the Iollowing thoughts would have been heard:

The essence oI soul is oI divine and spiritual origin. In the human being soul is enveloped by Ilesh, by
Ilesh made oI soul and subject to a myriad oI external inIluences and coloured by them. Thus, works oI
art can also be subject to such 'dispositions and coloured by them as well. It is by this colouration that
we recognise the immutable reverberation oI the immutable diapason. The universal Iorce oI this
reverberation, which emanates in resplendent Iashion throughout the artist`s output, legitimates both the
artist and his work.
10


From Kandinsky`s neo-platonic perspective, the work oI art exists Iirst in abstracto beIore
becoming material object. Such a perspective makes the utterly plausible claim that any
sequence oI events that brings the particular work oI art to actual concrete reality is valid,
regardless oI whether its emergence into concrete Iorm is oI a rationally cognitive or a more
intuitive nature. The creator oI a work oI art is, according to Kandinsky, indebted to a
supreme creative spirit and thereIore dependent on 'Spirit (der Geist) alone, i.e., on an
abstract quality, 'the spiritual (das Geistige). This is what characterises the artistic
experience in general and maniIests itselI by
way oI an 'inner vibration (innerer Klang).
It is to the creator oI art and to him/her alone
to decide in what way s/he will make use (or
not) oI the cognitive and intuitive Iaculties
at his/her disposal provided that s/he is able
to distinguish what is Ialse in each one oI
these Iaculties, i.e., all that is inadequate or
prejudicial in regard to his/her artistic
intention at any given moment.
11



3.

The years between 1908 and 1914 were
particularly Iertile ones Ior Kandinsky, who
during this period produced poetry,
paintings, wood-carvings, aesthetic theory, a
new conception oI theatre and short musical
compositions as well as devoted himselI to
gardening, bicycling and long nature walks.
In Iine health despite persistent bouts oI
hypochondria, Kandinsky grew both
artistically and intellectually during this

10 Roethel and Hahl-Koch, p.51.
11 Roethel and Hahl-Koch, p.58.
Kandinskv and Mnter going on a life fournev, 15
Mav 1904, Dsseldorf
(Gabriele Mnter and Johannes Eichner
Foundation, Munich)
Pulsating Jisions Idioms Incarnate 349



period in the loving company oI Gabriele Mnter, his companion and Iellow painter oI
more than a decade.
The artist`s Munich and Murnau phase is considered to be one oI his most productive
and artistically most eclectic periods. During these ten years his activities in the area oI
design, painting and wood-carving succeed in placing the representational and the
progressively more abstract on Iriendly terms.
12
The artistic consequences oI this
development can be observed, Ior example, in the painter`s preIerence Ior experimentation
with the eIIects oI brush strokes oI colour as the predominant organisational principle oI the
pictorial space rather than the use oI the objects depicted or their speciIic location on the
canvas as the latter`s organisational Iocus. In the Cologne Lecture Kandinsky also addresses
this issue:

I Ielt simultaneously an incomprehensible agitation and the impulse to paint a picture. And the thought that
this picture could be a beautiIul landscape, or an interesting pictorial scene, or the representation oI a human
Iigure did not at all satisIy me. Since I loved colour the most, I began to conceive vaguely oI a colour
composition in which the representational element would be seen through the Iilter oI the colours
themselves.
13


Kandinsky is driven by a veritable furor divinus although this furor diIIers markedly Irom
Plato`s understanding oI poetic inspiration, i.e., the latter`s belieI in the transcendent nature
oI divine inspiration maniIesting itselI in the artist as a totally untutored giIt.
14
On the
contrary, Ior Kandinsky artistic creativity signiIies a careIul process oI distilling several
languages (i.e., pictorial, graphic, poetic and scenic, the latter considered both in its
instrumental and vocal aspects). Moreover, his desire to produce trans-disciplinary works
both oI an aesthetic and ethical nature is inseparable Irom his ongoing philosophical
speculations.
Kandinsky considers his multi-artistic and multi-modal experimentation to be reIlective
Iirst oI a purely exterior principle which states that the Iusion oI the arts should grow out oI
'a work in space that involves a process oI construction.
15
His stage compositions
exempliIy this principle in the sense that in them can be Iound music, song, spoken word,
dance, light and colour. This Iirst principle is quite naturally and organically applied to the
process oI creation Ior the stage although it can easily be extended to include the creation oI
poetic texts and pictorial imagery as well. A second principle addresses, according to
Kandinsky, the artist`s inner experiences; it depends directly upon the abstract categories
deIined by the artist as 'inner vibration and 'spirituality. The conIluence oI the exterior
and inner principles suggests the existence oI a synthetic principle bridging external and

12 See also: Gisela Kleine, Gabriele Mnter und Wassilv Kandinskv Biographie eines Paares (FrankIurt am
Main, Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1994), pp.319-452; Armin Zweite, Die Linie zum inneren Klang beIreien
Kandinskys Kunsterneuung vor dem Horizont der Zeit`, in Kandinskv. Kleine Freude. Aquarelle und
Zeichnungen |Catalog oI the DsseldorI/Stuttgart Exhibit|, ed. by Vivian Endicott Barnett and Armin Zweite
(Mnchen: Prestel-Verlag, 1992), pp.9-32.
13 Roethel and Hahl-Koch, p.54.
14 Plato, Apology`, in The Trial and Death of Socrates, trans. by F.J. Church (London: Macmillan, 1928),
pp.43-4 (22 b-c).
15 See Kandinsky`s letter to Grohmann, dated 5.10.1924 in Zimmermann, p.346.
350 Anabela Mendes



inner reality, nature and art. This synthesis gives rise to an aesthetic principle Iounded on
the simultaneous stimulation oI all oI the 'receptor`s senses, the experience oI which also
includes the integration oI synaesthetic processes.
Once the external and inner principles are correctly identiIied, the Iundamental idea
underlying Kandinsky`s aesthetic theory can be elucidated, which states in essence that by
way oI works based on the aIorementioned Iusion oI the arts a modus operandi oI sensorial
stimulation leading to the human being`s spiritual liberation can ultimately be divined.


4.

In his activities devoted to painting in his Munich and Murnau period Kandinsky became
mainly concerned with the study oI colour and its multiple eIIects. He also explores Iorm in
its inIinite possibilities, at times, however, neglecting content, and studies the changes oI
perspective caused by the deliberate decentring and displacement oI elements or sections oI
the pictorial composition. In many oI the paintings oI this period, objects or reIerences to
objects are all but absent with the exception oI an assortment oI recurrent yet evolving
motiIs made up oI towers, cupolas, boats with their oars, birds, mountains and the
unmistakable medieval knight. These motiIs recall the artist`s abiding passion Ior the
Russia oI his childhood and youth. In subsequent phases oI the artist`s work, he would also
make use oI shamanic motiIs, reshaping artistically his ethnographic experiences in the
Vologda region oI northern Russia in 1889.
16

II we observe Kandinsky`s paintings as a process oI mise-en-scene, we readily become
aware oI the role played by concealment and disguise, but also oI how the heavy emphasis
given to the work`s constitutive elements (i.e., colour choice, a ludic approach to Iorm,
rhythms and movement) creates, by way oI the expressive devices at his disposal, a
language oI absolute exceptionality operating outside the descriptive norms oI general
linguistic capability. In addition, Ior Kandinsky this exceptional language is motivated by a
sense oI the 'pure (Reinheit) and closely linked with a proIound artistic sensibility: it is the
very echo resonating Irom the great divine and spiritual Opus.
17

It is this sense oI the 'pure underlying his pictorial theory and practice that can equally
be Iound in his poetic writings, Ior instance the Klnge (Sounds) album oI 1912 as well as
in his theatre project which would come to Iruition in 1928, when he staged, prepared the
stage sets and designed the lighting and models Ior a production oI Modest Mussorgsky`s
Pictures at an Exhibition given at the Friedrich Theatre in Dessau. Between 1906 and 1923
the painter created Iourteen compositions Ior the stage in addition to writing three essays on

16 The daily contact Kandinsky maintained with several autochthonous populations (Finno-Ugrian, Lap and
Siberian) at this time led him to discover an ancient religious, Iolkloric and iconographic heritage which the
painter would subsequently incorporate into some oI his paintings Irom the Munich and Murnau period up to
his late Parisian period. These paintings display small, gaily coloured, organic Iigures that are known as
representatives oI 'biomorphic abstraction. For Iurther discussion, see: Peg Weiss, Kandinskv and the Old
Russia The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1995).
17 See also Bill, GK, pp.132-143.
Pulsating Jisions Idioms Incarnate 351



the art oI stagecraIt, deIining the latter as the embodiment of total art, the abstract synthesis
oI art itselI.
II Ior Kandinsky the act oI painting was an act oI violence, acknowledged by him in an
autobiographical text,
18
his stage compositions reveal an artist who approaches the blank
page in an unhurried, painstaking and meticulous manner; the artist develops a rigorous
process oI textual notation Ior an essentially instructive or expository score accompanied by
small preparatory sketches and designs. These preparatory designs appear to be the source
oI his idea Ior an almost minimalist writing Ior the theatre; they can also be considered to
be the point oI departure or arrival Ior a painting or poem.
In Grner Klang (Green Sound), a work written between 1908 and 1909, we discover a
composition divided into two scenes, both enacted by a vast assortment oI human Iigures
(women, men, children, a beggar and a cripple), whose spatial organisation and movement
not only reveal a structure oI audible, pictorial and rhythmic contrasts but also require the
reader`s or spectator`s participation in a momentary process oI ontological, mystical and
transcendental reIlection on the cosmic dimension oI human destiny. The title oI this short
composition accentuates the Iigure oI the beggar dressed in green (a serene, quiescent and
discreet colour in this work),
19
who plays an ambivalent role here: is he simply a wretched
beggar or rather the saviour oI humankind? The title also conveys the symbolic importance
oI voice, Ior it is through song that the Iigure oI the beggar becomes an object oI inquiry,
Iirst in a Iemale Iigure`s love song (in which she also appears dressed in green) then by the
reedy lamentation uttered by the cripple.
This brieI composition Ior the stage shares certain aIIinities with the poem 'Lied
(Song)
20
Irom the Sounds album, as well as with the painting Das bunte Leben (The
Coloured LiIe) oI 1907.

18 In his autobiographical work Rckblicke (Reminiscences), Kandinsky states that learning to paint implied a
combat with the canvas and a subsequent victory over the latter; he thus justiIies, both literally and
Iiguratively, his aggressive libidinous nature. The process oI understanding his obstinate nature in the Iace oI
diIIiculties related to the control oI creative stimuli during the materialisation oI the desired work oI art would
appear to be at issue here. Roethel and Hahl-Koch, p.41.
19 Bill, GK, p.94.
20 We provide below a published translation oI this poem originally entitled 'Lied:

SONG
A man sits in
A narrow ring,
A narrow ring
OI thinness.
He is content.
He has no ear.
And doesn`t have his eyeballs.
He cannot Iind
What`s leIt behind
OI red sounds oI the sun ball.
Whatever Ialls
Stands up again.
And what was dumb,
352 Anabela Mendes



Toward the end oI 1908 Kandinsky wrote a new stage composition entitled Schwar: und
Weiss (Black and White). The text Ior this piece is organised into Iour orchestrated scenes
and reveals an ascendent progression oI dynamic moments around a small male Iigure
dressed in black as well as an indistinguishable white Iorm oI disproportionately gigantic
dimensions depicting the artist`s embryonic conception oI a woman. During the Iirst three
scenes oI the piece, the composer builds his abstract universe by way oI these two Iigures
(symbolic representations oI liIe and death, oI the positive and negative, viewed in their
essential complementarities). He simultaneously Iills the space with a series oI miniature-
like human Iigures, cloaked in heterogeneous colours and given to explosive movement,
who contrast in size, rhythm and directionality with the heavy props which invoke the
natural world, depicted here in uncommon dimensions. In the Iourth scene a change oI
scenery and oI the organisation and behaviour oI the scene`s participants occurs, a change
announced by a strident overture. The space is now dominated by a black knight mounted
on a white horse that slowly crosses the stage diagonally. In contrast with the voluminous
horse and knight couple and their ponderous traversal oI the stage, much smaller Iigures
dressed in shades oI green once again appear; they Iorm a mountain oI squatting Iigures and
appear to be located at the centre oI the earth. The entire scene comes alive through the
successive light changes, the sounds made by the horse`s hooves and the appearance oI a
bird.
The composition aims to instil in the spectator a process oI inner polarisation as a result
oI the interaction oI contrasting aesthetic stimuli built on the now opposed, now
complementary pair oI black and white Iigures. The composition as a whole, particularly its
last scene, can be objectively compared to Kandinsky`s pictorial universe and colour
schemes oI the same period. Moreover, there exist several studies by the painter as well as
copies made by Olga von Hartmann Ior this stage composition that likewise push the
boundaries oI stage and pictorial languages.
Kandinsky gave the title Jiolett (Violet) to his last stage composition. Originally
entitled Jioletter Jorhang (Violet Curtain), the artist worked on it between 1908 and 1926.
Although this piece heeds the same principles as the earlier ones, Jiolet possesses a much
greater inner and external complexity. We discover here Ior the Iirst time a text that is
unabashedly absurd, derisive and disconcerting in its humour. In Iact, some contemporaries
believed it to be an example oI dada writing.
21


It sings a song.
Until the man,
Who has no ear,
And doesn`t have his eyeballs,
Will start to Iind
Signs leIt behind
OI red sounds oI the sun ball.

(Wassily Kandinsky |1912|, Sounds, trans and intro by Elizabeth R. Napier |New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1981|, p.128.)
21 Ulrika-Maria Eller-Rter, Kandinskv Bhnenkomposition und Dichtung als Reali:ation seines Svnthese-
Kon:epts (Hildesheim, Zrich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1990), p.94. See also Jessica Boissel (ed.),
Wassilv Kandinskv ber das Theater Du Theatre O Teatpe (Kln: DuMont, 1998), p.213.
Pulsating Jisions Idioms Incarnate 353



This stage composition is made up oI seven scenes, two interludes and an apotheosis.
The scenes include various caricatured Iigures, some recognizable as characters Irom earlier
compositions and voicing similar themes:
the metaphysical dimension oI liIe, a deep
inquiry into the nature oI the world, and the
Iate oI the individual versus the
undiIIerentiated masses. Despite their
anonymous condition, these beings devoid
oI psychological deIinition are nonetheless
quite Iinely and incisively hewn.
The middle and Iinal structures oI this
composition are in our opinion oI particular
interest. They Iorm together an intensely
unique logic underpinned by a rigorous light
design revelatory oI a truly proIessional-
level lighting technique. In the Iirst oI the
two interludes, occurring just beIore the
third scene, the main character, so to speak,
is in Iact a red dot that traverses the stage
beIore widening into a large circle.
Immediately aIterwards, the surIace oI the
newly Iormed red circle envelops a diIIuse
yellow spot that moves in a vertical upward
and downward motion. This dynamic pair
then interacts with a blue ellipse that Ilickers in the right-hand corner oI the stage. The
interlude closes as the diIIerent colours Iade into the dominant red accompanied by the
sound oI trumpets.
In the Iinal interlude, which occurs just beIore the IiIth scene, the main characters are a
black spot and diagonal lines that move in all directions, sometimes Irom opposite ends,
while traversing a white screen in now curved, now rectilinear, now vibratory motion. The
ecstatic mood generated by this scene is the result oI the rapid interplay oI these elements
and their presentation in the Iorm oI a kaleidoscopic vision amidst a tremendous raucous
explosion.
Jiolets Iinale is both extensive and possessed oI a compositional unity giving to it a
virtual autonomy vis-a-vis the rest oI the piece. Whether it is perceived as an autonomous
piece or as the Iinal act oI this stage composition, however, Apotheosis is a Irenzied event
oI euphoric colour, a riot oI Iree Iorms colliding and clashing together; in short, it is a
tableau that inspires a truly uncommon perspective. Why does Kandinsky give the name
Apotheosis to this Iinale? Why does Kandinsky wish to show his readers museum goers
and potential spectators oI his compositions Ior the stage this veritable atelier in action?
Let us listen to this picture-writing, ready Ior the stage, as iI the now wished to Iree
itselI Irom the ever eternal, ever spiritual plane:

Wassily Kandinsky, Glass Painting with Red Spot,
c.1913
(Municipal Gallery, Lenbachhaus)
354 Anabela Mendes



A series oI coloured brush strokes appear in diIIerent combinations and in diIIerent places.
The red is exhausted.
To the right, quite low, near the margin, a great green circle emerges suddenly Irom a single point.
The entire scene begins to turn: it veers on its leIt side which then occupies an inIerior position; the higher
part is now the lower part. Another quick spin Iollows. And another. And yet another and another.
Each time more quickly. The entire scene spins like a wheel with ever increasing speed.
The sounds oI a whip are heard. Ever louder and quicker. The colours and sounds then run oII wildly.
22


In Kandinsky the interplay oI the material and the spiritual, which underpins his concept oI
the 'abstract (even when he considers it to be 'concrete),
23
emerges Iundamentally Irom
his idea oI construction, his principle oI organisation oI every intervening expressive
element or device, i.e., light, colour, Iorm, texture, rhythm, resonance, vibration, movement,
voice, body, musicality, etc. This interplay encompasses the speciIic artistic medium which
holds them together as well as the Iorces involved in their interaction. These elements,
which interact either in a convergent Iashion or in a multiplicity oI heterogeneous
expansions, produce now isolated, now large or discrete packets oI meaning possessed oI an
autonomy oI expression. These elements or devices, however, never abandon an active
sense oI totality or wholeness governed by principles which are exclusive oI the work oI art
in question: the nature oI these principles is dictated by the work oI art itselI. This
Iundamental idea oI the non-appropriation oI principles, which creates the speciIic viability
oI each individual work, allows us to live the intentionalities and energies which together
drive the idea oI composition inherent in Kandinsky`s scenic, poetic and pictorial work.

22 Wassily Kandinsky, Apotheosis` (1914), in Boissel, p.272; my translation.
23 CI. Max Bill (ed.), Konkrete Kunst (1938) and abstrakt oder konkret (1938), in Kandinskv, Essavs ber Kunst
und Knstler (Bern: Benteli-Verlag, (2) 1963), pp.217-221, 223-225.