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`I had the impression that here painting itself comes to the foreground; I wondered if it would not be possible to go further in this direction.`
Thus did the young Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) react to his first viewing of Monet's Haystack, included in an 1895 Moscow exhibit of French Impressionists. It was his first perception of the dematerialization of an object and presaged the later development of his influential theories of non-objective art.
During study and travel in Europe, the young artist breathed the heady atmosphere of artistic experimentation. Fauvism, Cubism, Symbolism, and other movements played an important role in the development of his own revolutionary approach to painting. Decrying literal representation, Kandinsky emphasized instead the importance of form, color, rhythm, and the artist's inner need in expressing reality.
In Point and Line to Plane, one of the most influential books in 20th-century art, Kandinsky presents a detailed exposition of the inner dynamics of non-objective painting. Relying on his own unique terminology, he develops the idea of point as the `proto-element` of painting, the role of point in nature, music, and other art, and the combination of point and line that results in a unique visual language. He then turns to an absorbing discussion of line — the influence of force on line, lyric and dramatic qualities, and the translation of various phenomena into forms of linear expression. With profound artistic insight, Kandinsky points out the organic relationship of the elements of painting, touching on the role of texture, the element of time, and the relationship of all these elements to the basic material plane called upon to receive the content of a work of art.
Originally published in 1926, this essay represents the mature flowering of ideas first expressed in Kandinsky's earlier seminal book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. As an influential member of the Bauhaus school and a leading theoretician of abstract expressionism, Kandinsky helped formulate the modern artistic temperament. This book amply demonstrates the importance of his contribution and its profound effect on 20th-century art.


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History of Contemporary Art

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The geometric line is an invisible thing. It is the track made by the moving point; that is, its product. It is created by movement—specifically through the destruction of the intense self-contained repose of the point. Here, the leap out of the static into the dynamic occurs.

The line is, therefore, the greatest antithesis to the pictorial proto-element—the point. Viewed in the strictest sense, it can be designated as a secondary element.


The forces coming from without which transform the point into a line, can be very diverse. The variation in lines depends upon the number of these forces and upon their combinations.

In the final analysis, all line forms can be reduced to two cases:

  1. application of one force and
  2. application of two forces:
    1. single or repeated, alternate action of both forces,
    2. simultaneous action of both forces.

Straight Line

I A. When a force coming from without moves the point in any direction, the first type of line results; the initial direction remains unchanged and the line has the tendency to run in a straight course to infinity.

This is the straight line whose tension represents the most concise form of the potentiality for endless movement.

For the concept “movement,” which is used almost everywhere, I have substituted the term “tension.” The customary term is inexact and thereby leads us down the wrong roads and is the cause of further terminological misconceptions. “Tension” is the force living within the element and represents only one part of the creative “movement.” The second part is the “direction,” which is also determined by the “movement.” The elements of painting are material results of movement in the form:

  1. of the tension, and
  2. of the direction.

This division creates, furthermore, a basis for the differentiation of various kinds of elements as, for example, point and line. Of these, the point carries only one tension within it and it can have no direction; the line definitely shares in both the tension and the direction. If, for instance, the straight line were to be investigated from the standpoint of its tension alone, it would be impossible to distinguish a horizontal line from a vertical. The above holds equally true in connection with colour analysis, since some colours are to be distinguished from others only in the directions of their tensions.16

We note that there are three typical kinds of straight lines of which other straight lines are only variations.

  1. The simplest form of the straight line is the horizontal. In the human imagination, this corresponds to the line or the plane upon which the human being stands or moves. The horizontal line is also a cold supporting base which can be extended on the level in various directions. Coldness and flatness are the basic sounds of this line, and it can be designated as the most concise form of the potentiality for endless cold movement.
  2. In complete contrast to this line, in both an external and inner sense, is the vertical which stands at right angles to it, and in which flatness is supplanted by height, and coldness by warmth. Therefore, the vertical line is the most concise form of the potentiality for endless warm movement.
  3. The third type of straight line is the diagonal which, in schematic form, diverges from both of the above at the same angle and, therefore, has the same inclination to both of them; a circumstance which determines its inner sound—equal union of coldness and warmth. Therefore, the diagonal line is the most concise form of the potentiality for endless cold-warm movement (Figs. 14 and 15).
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Fig. 14
Basic types of geometric straight

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Fig. 15
Diagram of basic types.


These three types are the purest forms of straight lines and they are differentiated from each other by temperature:

Endless movement. 1. cold form, Most concise forms of the potentiality for endless movement.
2. warm form,
3. cold-warm form.

To a greater or smaller extent, all other straight lines are only deviations from the diagonal. The differences in a greater or lesser tendency to coldness or to warmth determine their inner sounds (Fig. 16).

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Fig. 16
Diagram of deviations in temperature.

In this way is formed the star of straight lines which are organized about a common meeting-point.

Plane Formation

This star can become ever denser and denser so that the intersections form a more compact center, in which a point develops and seems to grow. This is the axis about which the lines can move and, finally, flow into one another; a new form is born—a plane in the clear shape of a circle (Figs. 17 and 18).

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Fig. 17

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Fig. 18
Circle as result of condensation.

It may be remarked briefly, that in this case we have to do with a special characteristic of the line—its power to create a plane. This power expresses itself here in the same manner that a shovel creates a plane with the incision-like lines it cuts into the earth. Moreover, the line can by still another method produce a plane, but of this I will speak later.

The difference between the diagonals and the other diagonal-like lines, which one could with justification call free straight lines, is also a temperature difference as the free straight lines can never attain a balance between warmth and coldness.

Free straight lines can, thereby, lie upon a given plane with a common center (Fig. 19), or lie outside of the center (Fig. 20); accordingly, they can be divided into these two clas...

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APA 6 Citation

Kandinsky, W. (2012). Point and Line to Plane ([edition unavailable]). Dover Publications. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/110721/point-and-line-to-plane-pdf (Original work published 2012)

Chicago Citation

Kandinsky, Wassily. (2012) 2012. Point and Line to Plane. [Edition unavailable]. Dover Publications. https://www.perlego.com/book/110721/point-and-line-to-plane-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Kandinsky, W. (2012) Point and Line to Plane. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/110721/point-and-line-to-plane-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Kandinsky, Wassily. Point and Line to Plane. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications, 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.


What did Wassily Kandinsky point black lines? ›

Wassily Kandinsky produced 'Black Lines' in 1913 which includes a network of thin, black lines situated amongst floating vibrant forms. During this period Kandinsky mainly produced large, expressive coloured paintings entwined with line work.

What is Kandinsky trying to represent in his abstract? ›

He sought to convey profound spirituality and the depth of human emotion through a universal visual language of abstract forms and colors that transcended cultural and physical boundaries.

What is the meaning of several circles Kandinsky? ›

“The circle,” claimed Kandinsky, “is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.”

Who was Wassily Kandinsky summary? ›

Vasily Kandinsky, (born Dec. 4, 1866, Moscow, Russia—died Dec. 13, 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France), Russian painter, a pioneer of pure abstraction in modern painting. Trained in the law and offered a law professorship, he chose painting instead and set out for Germany.

How did Kandinsky use shapes and lines and colors to help him tell a story with his painting? ›

Kandinsky believed that true artists could express their inner feelings through lines, shapes and especially color. He felt all colors and forms had meaning and carefully planned each painting to express the feelings he wanted to communicate. He did not feel the need to put recognizable objects in his work.

What did the Colours mean to Kandinsky? ›

The theory of colors by Kandinsky claims that the colors are causing the human soul to vibrate and it is a powerful tool to influence human beings as physical organisms. He recalls even repeated attempts of utilizing the power of colors for treatment of various diseases of the human nerve system.

What is the message of abstract? ›

Abstraction is often seen to carry a moral dimension – a notion that was particularly prevalent in the late 19th and 20th centuries, where ideas of spiritualism, purity, and order informed many artists and their work.

What is the message of abstract painting? ›

Abstract art is often seen as carrying a moral dimension, in that it can be seen to stand for virtues such as order, purity, simplicity and spirituality. Since the early 1900s, abstract art has formed a central stream of modern art.

What did Kandinsky say that art must be? ›

Art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul — to, in fact, the raising of the spiritual triangle.

What does a circle symbolize in art? ›

The circle is considered a symbol of unity, because all the regular polygons are embraced by the circle. It is also the symbol of infinity, without beginning or end, perfect, the ultimate geometric symbol.

What does red mean to Kandinsky? ›

Kandinsky wrote about the meanings of color in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” On its Greek roots, he wrote shades of red can both be like a flame, warm and exciting or painful. He describes keen yellow as sour, like a lemon. He took great care with white, suggesting it spoke of birth and possibilities.

What are the three categories of Kandinsky's painting define each? ›

The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." During Kandinsky's period of artistic development, he divided his paintings into three main categories: "Impressions" (which still show some representational elements), "Improvisations" (which convey spontaneous emotional ...

What did Kandinsky believe art? ›

For Kandinsky, art was a spiritual and emotional experience. He wanted his paintings to transcend recognized forms and express feelings through colors and shapes.

What is the main subject of Wassily Kandinsky paintings? ›

Music - and the idea of music - appears everywhere in Kandinsky's work. Take his generic titles: Compositions, Improvisations, and Impressions. His mighty 10 compositions were created over more than three decades from Composition l in 1907 to Composition X in 1939.

Why is Kandinsky so important? ›

Wassily Kandinsky pioneered abstract painting in the early 20th century. He believed that geometric forms, lines, and colors could express the inner life of the artist—a theory quite evident in his own explosive paintings, which were often inspired …

What did Kandinsky hear when he looked at the color yellow? ›

Wassily Kandinsky, who pioneered abstract art in the early 20th century, had a rare trait called synaesthesia, which blurs the senses and allowed the Russian painter to associate colours with certain sounds and moods. Red, he heard as a violin; yellow, as a trumpet; and blue, the sound of a heavenly organ.

What parts of the Colour theory did Kandinsky use? ›

At the core of his soul-oriented theory of colour are two interrelated oppositions: warm versus cold, and light versus dark.

How did the artist use line shape and color to contribute to the mood or meaning in the birth of Venus? ›

Expert-Verified Answer. Either used as a contour or as an edge between different paint colors, lines define shapes and can be used by the artist to guide the eye of the viewer through the painting. Artists want the viewer's eye to be carried to the focal point and, at the same time, not get "stuck" there.

What instrument did Kandinsky hear when he saw green? ›

The colours corresponded to instruments in his mind: warm red to “trumpets — strong, harsh and ringing”; cool red to the “sad, middle tones of a cello”; green to “the placid middle notes of a violin”; violet to “an English horn, or the deep notes of a wood instrument”, such as the bassoon; blue had a wide range — a ...

What did Kandinsky think about blue? ›

For Kandinsky, color also had the ability to put viewers in touch with their spiritual selves. He believed that yellow could disturb, while blue awakened the highest spiritual aspirations.

What colors mean emotions? ›

Warm colors – such as red, yellow and orange – can spark a variety of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger. Cool colors – such as green, blue and purple – often spark feelings of calmness as well as sadness.

What were the 3 main forms of abstract painting? ›

3 Types of Important Abstract Art Styles
  • #1. Dada. In the early 20th century, many artists were interested in using their platforms to make critiques on society and culture. ...
  • #2. Action Painting. ...
  • #3. Non-Objective Art.
Jul 20, 2020

What are the 5 elements of abstract art? ›

All art consists largely of elements that can be called abstract—elements of form, colour, line, tone, and texture.

What is the purpose of the abstract summary? ›

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation). It serves two main purposes: To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research. To communicate your key findings to those who don't have time to read the whole paper.

What is the main idea and the overall message of the painting? ›

Theme is the message or idea that the artist wishes to convey through their art, or the message received by an audience when observing art.

What are the 6 elements of abstract art? ›

This vocabulary is made up of six basic elements: Line, Texture, Shape, Form, Color, and Value. Whether you do abstract art, non-objective, or even realistic, you'll find at least one, if not more, of these elements at work.

What are 3 characteristics of abstract art? ›

The main characteristics of abstractionism are:
  • Opposition to the Renaissance Model and Figurative Art;
  • Non-Representational Art;
  • Subjective art;
  • Absence of Recognizable Objects;
  • Valuation of Shapes, Colors, Lines and Textures.
Jun 27, 2020

What is a famous quote by Wassily Kandinsky? ›

There is no must in art because art is free. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.

What sort of spirituality did Kandinsky follow? ›

Kandinsky wasn't what we might call religious in the traditional sense, but he was deeply spiritual. Among the thinkers who most influenced him was Helena Petrova Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875, who contended that there is a higher, immaterial realm beyond the visible world.

What does <3 symbolize? ›

In their eyes the number 3 was considered as the perfect number, the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding. It was also the number of time – past, present, future; birth, life, death; beginning, middle, end – it was the number of the divine.

Is a circle a symbol of God? ›

The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning. It represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, God ('God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere' (Hermes Trismegistus)).

What do 3 circles symbolize? ›

Three interconnected circles represent the Holy Trinity. Latin Cross surrounded by circle or oval representing eternity or never-ending existence. In Christianity, the equilateral triangle is the symbol of the Trinity.

What did green mean to Kandinsky? ›

Just as punctuation marks may be employed in writing to indicate a sentence's intonation and tenor, so the green element is used in this painting to lighten and relieve the dark mass below; Kandinsky associated the color with rest and peace.

Why did Kandinsky paint circles in a circle? ›

The Circle Represented Ideal Balance and Symmetry

Kandinsky also loved circles because they could create qualities of balance, order and symmetry in his artworks. Formally, he simply enjoyed the visual process of repeating circular motifs in a wide variety of ways, from overlapping forms to dizzying concentric designs.

What does dark blue mean in art? ›

The meaning of the color blue in color theory depends on its shade. Unlike the vividness of bright blue and royal blue or the happy lightness of blue pastel colors, dark blue conveys power, depth, and elegance.

What are 3 paintings together called? ›

A triptych is an artwork made up of three pieces or panels.

What are the 4 forms of painting? ›

Types of Painting Styles
  • Realism. Realism is a painting art style that aims to give the viewer a reflection of the real world. ...
  • Photorealism. You may also see photorealism referred to as hyperrealism or super-realism. ...
  • Expressionism. ...
  • Impressionism. ...
  • Abstract. ...
  • Surrealism. ...
  • Pop Art. ...
  • Oil.
Sep 22, 2021

What are the 3 main areas of a composition in art? ›

To achieve successful composition, you must include three things: A focal point, structure, and balance.

What is the analysis of Kandinsky painting? ›

Kandinsky viewed non-objective, abstract art as the ideal visual mode to express the "inner necessity" of the artist and to convey universal human emotions and ideas. He viewed himself as a prophet whose mission was to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.

What technique did Kandinsky use? ›

He employed oil, watercolor, gouache, tempera, and possibly mixtures of these media.

Did Kandinsky believe in God? ›

Kandinsky was also an Orthodox Christian. Intrigued by Christian eschatology, his paintings were often inspired by the coming cataclysm and Christ's second coming.

What are the elements of art? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.

What is Kandinsky style of art? ›

Wassily Kandinsky

What is Wassily Kandinsky's artistic style called? ›

Wassily Kandinsky was known as a pioneer of abstract painting, both independently and as part of the Blaue Reiter group (1911-1914) and Blaue Vier (beginning in 1924) with Lyonel Feininger, Alexej Jawlensky, and Paul Klee.

What are 3 facts about Kandinsky? ›

8 Things You Did Not Know About Kandinsky
  • He had the gift of synesthesia. ...
  • He owned and lost properties. ...
  • He became an artist at the age of 30. ...
  • He opened his own school in 1902: it was open to women. ...
  • The early years of the Vassily-Nina Kandinsky couple. ...
  • He was friends with Marcel Duchamp.

How did Wassily Kandinsky use Expressionist line? ›

How did Wassily Kandinsky use Expressionist line and color in Improvisation 31? He combined vibrant colors with bold lines to convey his inner feelings about a subject.

What parts of the colour theory did Kandinsky use? ›

At the core of his soul-oriented theory of colour are two interrelated oppositions: warm versus cold, and light versus dark.

Why did Kandinsky paint abstractly? ›

Supposedly, Kandinsky took up abstract art because he spotted a picture in his studio during twilight. It was lying on its side and Kandinsky recognized just forms and colors that fascinated him. He came to the conclusion that representationalism only hurt his work.

What ideas did Kandinsky and Mondrian have in common? ›

Although they worked independently from one another, these artists were united by a belief that abstract (or non-objective) painting was capable of evoking a spiritual experience. Expressing themselves through philosophical writings as well as paintings, they practiced art as a metaphysical quest for higher truth.

What kind of technique does the expressionist use? ›

Expressionist artists often employed swirling, swaying, and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes in the depiction of their subjects. These techniques were meant to convey the turgid emotional state of the artist reacting to the anxieties of the modern world.

What is the main idea of Expressionism? ›

Expressionism, artistic style in which the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse within a person.

How do you explain expressive lines? ›

Expressive Line – A kind of line that seems to spring directly from the artist's emotions or feelings — loose, gestural, and energetic — epitomized by curvi-linear forms; as opposed to analytic or classical line.

What was unique about Kandinsky's theories about the use of color? ›

Kandinsky argued that artistic experiences were all about feeling, and different colors affected mood. Yellow could disturb, while blue might make people feel good. Kandinsky's thoughts on color were similar to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's belief that different colors can convey certain emotions.

What is the point of abstract painting? ›

The main purpose of abstraction in art is not to tell a story, but to encourage involvement and imagination. This art form has as its main objective to provide viewers with an intangible and emotional experience, being completely different for each individual, depending on their personality and mood.

What is one of Kandinsky's major influences? ›

Early on his art was influenced by painters like Claude Monet as well as music composers and philosophers. Kandinsky's early paintings were landscapes that were heavily influenced by Impressionist artists as well as Pointillism and Fauvism. The most famous of his early works is The Blue Rider which he painted in 1903.

What was Kandinsky most inspired by and why? ›

Kandinsky's ideas were fuelled by an interest in Theosophy, a movement that insisted on following transcendental truths that could not be explained by science.” Music also inspired him to create artworks of high spiritual rather than visual fidelity.

What is abstract art summary? ›

abstract art, also called nonobjective art or nonrepresentational art, painting, sculpture, or graphic art in which the portrayal of things from the visible world plays little or no part. All art consists largely of elements that can be called abstract—elements of form, colour, line, tone, and texture.

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