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The Art of JAMA
December 17, 2014

Untitled (Composition With Grey Background)Wassily Kandinsky

JAMA. 2014;312(23):2470-2471. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279895

Untitled (Composition With Grey Background), by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), is a floating field of geometric shapes. Four rising quadrilaterals tip their nose cones in overlapping planes. Bold outlines, harmonious contrasts, and crisp angles are classic Kandinsky motifs, supplemented in this image with the biomorphic detailing of his late work. Kandinsky’s compositions demonstrate that geometric relationships can be as pleasing to the eye as portraits or landscapes. The content of painting is painting, Kandinsky said, by which he meant that a painting does not have to imitate nature to be a work of art. By 1933, when he was compelled to move from Berlin to Paris, Kandinsky had spent his career defending the legitimacy of abstraction, and he assumed that abstract painting was familiar to art enthusiasts and gallery owners throughout Europe and North America. His paintings had been well received in Germany, where he had lived and worked for three decades, and he naturally assumed they would be admired in Paris; but to his surprise, the Parisians were unimpressed.

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