Basic Color Theory by Kandinsky

Corn, Dark I (1924 – Georgia O’Keeffe)

I was reading a book about Georgia O’Keeffe, when I studied that Georgia, Stieglitz and his friends were strongly influenced by Kandinsky’s theories and paintings. I was very curious to find out what is it so special about it. I would like to go over with you the main points of the theory.

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky /kænˈdɪnski/ (Russian: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Канди́нский, Vasilij Vasil’evič KandinskijRussian pronunciation: [vaˈsʲilʲɪj kɐnˈdʲinskʲɪj]; 16 December [O.S. 4 December] 1866 – 13 December 1944) was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely abstract works. (wiki)

Before doing a research about Wassily Wassilyevich I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Kandinsky had a synesthesia as many points of his theory I agree with, being also a synesthesic, I respond to some of the colors the same way (check out my artwork to see if this theory applies to me as well). I was right, Mr. Kandinsky has had a synesthesia.

The Color theory was published in 1911 and meant to explain the painter’s palette in two ways: the effect on the eye (person’s physical understanding of the color) and “inner resonance”, phycological effect, when it effects your spiritual experience.
Here are the basic points of the color explanatory by Kandinsky:

Yellow – “warm,” “cheeky and exciting,” “disturbing for people,” attack, madness

Green – peace, stillness, passive, mix of yellow and blue. The absolute absence of movement, is good for tired people, but after the rest the feeling of calmness can become boring.

Blue – peaceful, supernatural, deep, “typical heavenly color”, The lighter it is, the more calming it is. When in the end it becomes white, it reaches absolute calmness.

Red – restless, glowing, alive, “manly maturity”

Light Red – is a warm color, expresses joy, energy and triumph.

Middle Red – evokes feeling of stability and passion

Dark Red – as any other cool color is a deep one, it can be made even deeper with light blue.

Brown  – dull, hard, inhibited, mix of red and black

Orange – radiant, serious, healthy, mix of red and yellow

Violet  – “morbid, extinguished […] sad”, mix of red and blue

White – “It is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with “Harmony of silence”, possibilities.” Is the harmony of silence.

Black – extinguished, immovable, “Not without possibilities […] like an eternal silence, without future and hope.” While the white expresses joy and spotless cleanliness, the black is the color of great grief.

Grey – is the balance between the white and black. It is soundless and motionless, but it differs from green, because the green is a mixture of two active colors, while the grey expresses a hopeless stillness.

The theory describes not only the colors but the geometrical objects and it’s impression on the viewer:

“According to Kandinsky…, a dull shape like a circle deserves a dull color like blue. A shape with intermediate interest like a square deserves an intermediate color like red. A dynamic, interesting shape like a triangle deserves an enegetic, luminous, psychotic color like yellow.

Sharp angle, by Kandinsky is an aggressive angle, there for an angle of  30˚ best matches the color yellow. Straight angle 90˚ is red (remember the figure square for red). As more dull is goes, it turns into bluer (for 150˚), as it has less aggression, and eventually turns into black horizontal line (180˚).
White line by Wassily Wassilyevich is positioned vertically, an opposite to black (horizontal).
Would you find this theory useful to you or not, it is an interesting theory to know. Kandinsky has developed it not only by his synesthesic understanding of the colors (which could be different for many people), but also based it on his own experience of people’s reaction on his work.
To read more about Kandinsky:

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