Small Worlds VI (Kleine Welten VI)
Wassily Kandinsky ( Russian, active in Germany, 1866 - 1944 )
In 1921 Wassily Kandinsky took a teaching position at the newly formed school of modern design, the Bauhaus, in Weimar. A portfolio of twelve prints, Kleine Welten, or Small Worlds, was Kandinsky's first creation after joining the school. As a group, the images create a dialogue, although as the title suggests each also functions as a microcosm.
Small World VI represents Kandinsky's view that art should express an inner life through a vocabulary of cosmic forms. Within his oeuvre this woodcut is both retrospective and forward-looking, for it forges a link between the more representational works of the artist's earlier years and the new vision of the Bauhaus era.
Traces of readable imagery are found in the double sails that flank the scene and in the elemental landscape motifs scattered throughout. The impact of Russian constructivism is clear in the orchestration of geometric elements, although by infusing each element of the image with meaning, Kandinsky departs from the constructivists, who actively discouraged such expressiveness.
The dark circle at the center of the image serves as a visual anchor for the free-floating circles, triangles, and diagonals. There is an illusion of movement, as though each form pulsates with its own internal energy. Nondescriptive hues and abstract shapes are juxtaposed with representational forms. The opposition of black and white accentuates the sense of playful, fluctuating movement. In contrast, the circle, symbol of perfection and the cosmos, establishes a calm center and contributes to the spiritual aura of the owrk. This woodcut presents, perhaps, an image of the confrontation of the material world with the transcendental.
Kristin Helmick-Brunet, "Kleine Welten VI (Small World VI)", in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ _ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 126.