kandinsky, on points, 1928


Wassily Kandinsky completed many significant artworks in his lifetime that span over a number of different art movements from the beginning of the twentieth century and continuing through the 1940s. Moving from Germany to Russia and then back to Germany after the Russian Revolution, he became a teacher at the Bauhaus in the post World War I era♦.  The Bauhaus’ aim was to “rescue the arts from the isolation in which each then found itself and to train the craftsmen, painter, and sculptors of the future♦.”[1]  Using many themes of productivism, such as the simplification of art through the use of materials and basic forms, the Bauhaus focused on materials used to compose artworks, not the specific artist who completed it. Art in the Bauhaus was meant for all people; all idolatry was taken away♦. Instead of praising certain people, all artists were considered equal as skilled craftsman. While working at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky completed many works of art that used a “combination of geometric and free forms.”[2]  One work, On the Points, [3]captures a few of the themes that Kandinsky has used throughout his career.

Completed in 1928, this painting is oil on canvas, located in the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, France. When first looking at the painting, it appears to be a collection of arrows pointing in various upward directions amidst a blurry, smudged background♦. However, all the elements of this work come together to show themes that Kandinsky used in all of his works, and taught as well, such as the use of specific shapes, colors, and lines to create an image.

The colors in this work seem to be bleeding out of the lines, but they are actually defined clearly in each shape♦. The background of the painting is a pastel red, tan, and grayish color. Inside each shape is a different color. The color of the each line is black or dark gray. These colors make the color of each shape pop and appear more distinct.  The smudgy appearance is similar to previous artworks of Kandinsky, specifically his German Expressionist works before World War I.  Now, his post World War I works does not show a scene or tell a story♦. Instead, they are simple artworks reduced to shapes, colors, and lines♦. His earlier works were trying to show how change needed to occur in Europe.  They were disfigured and distorted to allow the viewer to interpret his ideas for how society should be living and acting.  Now he has simplified his works in order to return to the basics of art. This almost symbolizes a suggestion to return to the basics in the real world as well♦.  A return to the basic ideas of society is what the countries of Europe needed to do after World War I in order to recover from the extensive damages, both physical and psychological.

The lines of the arrows all come from three single points on a platform made of three, bold and horizontal lines. This theme of three is repeated throughout the art work♦. The majority of the shapes are triangles, with the exception of the rectangular line shapes and the seven circles. Each of the triangles faces the top or bottom of the artwork; none of the shapes (with the exception of the lines) are horizontal. The three sides of each triangle are intertwined with one another, bringing the painting together in the center.

At the Bauhaus, Kandinsky taught based on shape and color. He uses the three primary colors: blue, red, and yellow. He also used three shapes: circles, triangles, and squares. In this painting, the triangles are isosceles. There is one square in the lower right hand side of the artwork♦.  Seven circles are located in various parts, mainly surrounding the arrow-like triangles.  These shapes serve as the basis to all Bauhaus artworks. They are not ornamental in any way and are an example of the simplistic ideas of the Bauhaus.

Kandinsky brings together a variety of shapes, color, and lines to form an image that exemplified the ideas of the Bauhaus. Drawing inspiration from German expressionism and constructivism, he blended each element of the art work together to create a new type of painting.  Instead of using the work to tell a story as he did in previous art works, this piece was a collection of basic elements brought together.



Kandinsky, Wassily. On the Points.  Oil on canvas, 1928.  Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-1933.New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1983.

Whitford, Frank. Bauhaus. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1984.

[1] Frank Whitford, Bauhaus. (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1984), 11.

[2] Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-1933. (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1983), 37.

[3] Wassily Kandinsky, On the Points, oil on canvas, 1928, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.


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