Vasily Kandinsky

White Cross

January–June 1922

Vasily Kandinsky referred to the early 1920s as his “cool period.” From this time geometric shapes became increasingly prevalent in his work. Here the title isolates a detail of the composition, the white cross at upper right, a formal consequence of the checkerboard pattern (a recurrent motif in works of this period). In this instance negative space is treated as positive form. Once the cross of the title is seen, one begins to perceive throughout the work a proliferation of others, varying in degrees of explicitness. Though Kandinsky, like Kazimir Malevich, uses it as an abstract element, the cross is an evocative, symbolic form. The viewer’s compulsion to read imagery literally is used to unexpected ends by Kandinsky, who includes two signs resembling the numeral 3 upended and affixed to directional arrows. The variations in direction of the resulting forms suggest the rotation of the entire canvas. The antigravitational feeling of floating forms and the placement of elements on a planar support against an indefinite background in White Cross reveal affinities with Malevich’s Suprematist works.

Artist Vasily Kandinsky
Original Title Weisses Kreuz
Date January–June 1922
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 100.5 x 110.6 cm
Credit line Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)
Accession 76.2553 PG 34
Collection Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Type Painting

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Vasily Kandinsky



On view