Wednesday, 1 December 2010

What connects Kandinsky and Turner? A love for Goethe's colour theory

Kandinksy: Cossacks,  1910-11, Tate:
The world outside is covered in a white blanket, so I thought I could provide a splash of colour in blogland. I gave a lecture on Expressionism yesterday and naturally couldn't resist references to the particular interest the Blue Rider group members had in colour and colour theory. There is an abundance of writing by various Blue Riders on colour, and Kandinsky considered Goethe's Theory of Colours an extremely important book (as did Schopenhauer, incidentally). Unlike Turner, who travelled with a copy of Goethe's Theory of Colours in the 1840s and annotated it heavily, he didn't name a painting directly after the treatise, but numerous of his works clearly deal with colour theory in general. Here is one of his most famous works, Cossacks, which even features a very un-Newtonian rainbow. It hangs in Tate Britain, London, where you can also see Turner's Light and Shade(Goethe's Theory). 

Turner: Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory), 1943

Kandinsky incorporated Goethe's Theory in his lectures at Bauhaus School and many drawings exist that give evidence of his fascination with colour theory.

Sketch concerning colour theory  by Kandinsky, 1913

A scholarly book has been written by Barabara Hentschel  on the connection between these two intellectual giants: Kandinsky and Goethe: Über das Geistige in der Kunst in der Tradition Goethescher Naturwissenschaft, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Berlin, 2000.