kandinsky, yellow - red - blue, 1925


The intent of the Bauhaus school was to show the world that the arts were not held in high esteem over other things. It was something to be enjoyed by all people and something that trained craftsman could be a part of, not just something that only glorified artists could complete.  The school was forced to leave Weimar and open in the more industrial city of Dessau. It was cultural, just as Weimar was, but the more industrial atmosphere appealed to the constructivist ideas that the Bauhaus turned to after its creation.[1]  The school in Dessau was a symbol that the school had “come of age” and was no longer trying to prove themselves as a modern school of art. They were established and were no longer trying to find a way to show what they stood for in the art world.[2]             Kandinsky’s style of painting changed as the school did, moving away from the expressionist and constructivist ideas that the Bauhaus were founded on.

Yellow-Red-Blue was completed in 1925 and is oil on canvas.  When looking at the painting for the first time, the colors do not seem to have a certain purpose or a place.  The lines used all have different widths and seem to increase in width from the left to right of the canvas. The left borders are a blue-purple color and the borders on the right side are yellow. In the center of the canvas is where the majority of the activity associated with the shapes. Yellow and blue make up the majority of the colors and red is located in the center, somewhat creating a division between the two.  The colors all melt together to form one image instead of being separated by specific lines as in some of his other works.

Kandinsky’s color theory used the three primary colors of yellow, red, and blue, based on his interest in the basic elements of form.  This painting in particular uses what he taught in his classes.  The yellow and blue colors are located at different ends of the canvas.  The yellow colors are surrounded by white and lighter shades because it was the “color nearest the light” and carries a “nature of brightness.”  The blue colors are surrounded by darker shades because “it always brings something of darkness to it” and “provides a feeling of cold.”[3]

This work does not restrict the shapes that are used; a combination of squares, triangles, circles, and other polygons are present on the canvas.  The Bauhaus focused on shapes and their form. Following this idea, Kandinsky distinctly shows each element of the painting instead of blurring all the images in the painting together.  The lines are a combination of horizontal and diagonal lines. There is not a strictly vertical line on the canvas.  The horizontal lines show a sense of calmness, but the diagonal lines balance it out.

While this work is not as simple as some of Kandinsky’s early Bauhaus works, it still uses his ideas of color and form to send a message of simplicity and shows how basic elements can make up an artwork.  His early works in the Bauhaus show influence from constructivism and other early 20th century art periods.  By moving away from these styles, the Bauhaus began to change as well.




Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus years, 1915-1933. New York: SolomonR.GuggenheimMuseum, 1983.

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

[1] Frank Whitford, Bauhaus. (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1984), 153.

[2] Whitford, 164.

[3] Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years 1915-1933. (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1983). 63-64.

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