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Open Green, 1923

Vasily Kandinsky

Russian, 1866-1944
Oil on canvas
38-1/4 x 38-1/4 in. (97.2 x 97.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1971.4.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Kandinsky was a trailblazer of modern art, a practitioner of ever-more-radical abstraction and the author of key theoretical works concerned with the spiritual and formal content of art. In Open Green, painted in 1923, his interests in spirituality and form seem to converge in a dreamscape of color and shape at once abstract and gnomically figurative. Born in Russia, Kandinsky was a devoted student of Russian folklore and icon painting, and the conglomeration of swooping shapes—a circle pierced by a long, slender diagonal; two curving, whiskered commas; a receding checkerboard of translucent color—in the upper right-hand quadrant of this composition has sometimes been read as a depiction of the equestrian Saint George, patron of the Russian Orthodox church, holding his lance and shield and galloping into the heavens.

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