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Kandinsky's Sense-ational Art

MommyO guides you along mini-adventures in fine art and fun art!

Explore Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles by Wassily Kandinsky.

Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles by Kandinaky as inspiration for Kandinsky's Sense-ational Art blog
'Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles' (1913) — Wassily Kandinsky — Crayon, Watercolor, Gouache on Paper

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” ― Wassily Kandinsky

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Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian-born Abstract Expressionist, often credited with painting one of the first purely abstract works of art. An Abstract Expressionist is an artist who portrays thoughts and emotions as nonrealistic art in response to real-life experiences — as opposed to other artists who choose to represent actual objects from real life.

Therefore, Wassily Kandinsky was likely painting how things made him feel and not necessarily what he saw. Can you imagine painting something you’re thinking or how you’re feeling, instead of painting what you see? This method is not typically how we think of creating art. Most artists paint what they see, not what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.

Perhaps one of Wassily Kandinsky’s most well-known pieces of artwork is titled Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles. What makes it so special is the combination of all the spectacular and vibrant colors!

Kandinsky often composed art while listening to music. Some art historians believe that Wassily Kandinsky always heard music while he created his art — even if there was no music playing in the room!

For this particular work of art — it is thought that Kandinsky may have heard the colors he painted, within the music to which he listened. Being able to hear colors would suggest that Kandinsky may have also been a synesthete [sin-neh-steet]. This is a pretty unusual word — why don’t you practice saying it a couple of times? Sin-neh-steet. Sin-neh-steet.

A ‘synesthete’ is — a person who cannot separate the five senses. Seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and touching mingle with each other in uncommon ways. Similar to the way in which Kandinsky may have seen colors when he heard music — synesthetes may hear a sound when they eat a certain food, taste flavor when they touch an object, or even feel a sensation when they smell an odor.

Can you imagine having so many sense-ational sense combinations? In the case of Kandinsky, it is thought that he could see the elements of art — line, shape, form, space, texture, and color — when he heard sounds, specifically when he listened to music.

If indeed his sense of hearing mingled with his sense of sight — making it possible for him to hear the element of color — it could explain the sentiment behind Wassily Kandinsky’s famous quote, “Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.”

While synesthesia is a rare and unusual condition, it’s an interesting phenomenon that may very well have contributed to Kandinsky’s art. We use the cleverly coined phrase ‘sense-ational art’ when we talk about a Kandinsky masterpiece because of the possibility he used more than just his sense of sight when creating his artwork.

Aside from sight, if he were listening to music as he composed his artwork, Kandinsky would have also used his sense of hearing.



Painting on paper with watercolors, gouache [gu-ah-sh], and crayons — Kandinsky may very well have heard color when he created this iconic work of art in 1913. This phenomenon most definitely would have influenced the composition of his Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles. Most people only use the sense of sight to see colors with their eyes — but Kandinsky may have been able to use the additional sense of hearing to 'see' and choose all the beautiful colors for this artwork.

Just for fun — think about how each of these squares might sound if you could hear color. Perhaps you hear a bold symphony — or children singing whimsical nursery rhymes — or a galactic battle theme.

Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles certainly is very colorful! You can see red — yellow — blue— green— orange — violet! As a matter of fact, Kandinsky used all the colors of the modern color wheel — and he even used some white!

In this artwork, Wassily Kandinsky painted concentric circles within squares. Concentric circles are two or more circles which have the same center point. Kandinsky’s circles certainly aren’t perfectly round circles. Even though they are slightly misshapen, we still refer to them as concentric circles.

What is most shocking about Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles is that although considered to be one of Wassily Kandinsky’s most famous and recognizable works of art, it was not thought by the artist himself to be a piece of fine artwork! Kandinsky considered this painting a small color-theory study and a tool that he used in his studio when choosing colors for his other works of art.

It was very enlightening to learn about an artist — and most likely a synesthete — who very well may have painted with his ears rather than with his eyes!


For a fun, hands-on artsy craft — and an opportunity to hear color, rather than see color — check out Painted Concentric Art. It's any day art with everyday materials!

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