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Improvisation No. 23 (Troika)

On view

Improvisation No. 23 (Troika)

Artist: Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866 - 1944)

Date: 1911
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Overall: 43 1/4 x 43 3/16in. (109.9 x 109.7cm)
Signed: Lower left: 'Kandinsky 1911'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 56.42
Label Text
Improvisation No. 23 (Troika) is a loosely structured composition with open linear elements that are combined with multiple areas of brilliant and, at times, almost transparent color. Energetically brushed on, the colors are not contained within the black lines. Instead, line and color exist as two equally important elements, forming a dynamic, seemingly abstract composition.

Although Kandinsky always emphasized the spontaneous element in the creation of the Improvisation paintings, archival documents and numerous drawings point to a fairly systematic process of composing them. While appearing abstract, the works evolved out of the artist's consideration of various representational and narrative themes presented in a highly simplified form, visually brought down to the level of a pictogram or a linear or color symbol.

The subtitle Troika indicates the underlying motif of the Utica Improvisation: the reminiscence of the Russian sleigh, pulled by three horses, running abreast-one of the most characteristic and picturesque elements of the Russian snowy winters during Kandinsky's youth. The three curving black lines in the upper left quadrant of the canvas signal the heads of the three horses, whose bodies are implied by the short swooping black line leading towards the center of the picture. The multiple criss-crossing lines suggest the horses' flying tails, and the curved black line, around a small bright orange area in the lower center, indicates the shape of the sled (traditionally with both runners curling in front like a ram's horns). The sled is shown against the background of a mountain range, whose ridges are defined by the black, calligraphic lines.

Magdalena Dabrowski
2005

Shorter version:

Improvisation No. 23 (Troika) is a loosely structured composition with open linear elements and brilliant colors combined in equal measure. Although Kandinsky emphasized spontaneity in creating his Improvisation paintings, archival documents and drawings point to a systematic process of composing them. While appearing abstract, the works evolved out of the artist’s consideration of various representational and narrative themes presented in a highly simplified form, as a linear or color symbol.

The subtitle Troika indicates the underlying motif of this painting: reminiscences of a horse-drawn sleigh, one of the most picturesque elements of snowy Russian winters from Kandinsky’s youth. The three curving black lines in the upper left quadrant of the canvas signal the horses’ heads and their bodies are implied by the swooping black line leading towards the center of the picture. The criss-crossing lines suggest the horses’ flying tails, and the curved black line around a small bright orange area in the lower center indicates the shape of the sled, which is shown against the background of a mountain range, defined by black, calligraphic lines.


Copyright
Presumed copyright: the artist or the artist's representative/heir(s) / Licensed by ARS, New York, NY.