Artwork Detail

Kleine Welten IV (Small Worlds IV), from the series Kleine Welten (Small Worlds)
German, b. Russia, 1866–1944
13 1/2 x 11 1/2 "
University purchase, Plant Replacement Fund, 1964
WU 4206
In 1911 Russian emigré and painter Wassily Kandinsky, together with Franz Marc, founded the Expressionist group The Blue Rider in Munich, Germany. By 1922 he was living in Weimar and teaching at the progressive arts and crafts school famously known as the Bauhaus. The Kleine Welten series appeared later that same year. Consisting of both woodcuts and lithographs, these prints illustrate Kandinsky’s use of “veiling” techniques, in which abstract compositions slowly disclose the presence of identifiable figures and objects. Strongly informing each of these “small worlds” is Kandinsky’s knowledge of contemporary developments in urban design, in particular Russian experiments with utopian planning and the garden city movement in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution. In prints IV and VII, for example, features of the built environment—towers, railways, grid patterns, even planned belts of green space—appear to take shape amid a field of nonobjective, polymorphic forms, suggesting a thematization of states of perpetual suspension between real and ideal worlds. Owing to their flattened perspectives and impressions of distance, these prints also recall a medieval utopian tradition of depicting cities as remote, often heavenly, kingdoms. [Permanent collection label, 2011]