Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle) Wassily Kandinsky Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle) was completed by Kandinsky in 1913 and is one of the last in his series of improvisations, as he termed them. It can now be found at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, USA.

Centrally, we find two ships engaging in battle. The black lines form their masts, and cannons fire explosions of colour within this bright and dramatic seascape. The abstract approach used by the artist means it bares almost so resemblance to the work of great seascape artists, such as Turner or the many fine Dutch exponents. It is relatively rare for Kandinsky to focus on the waves of the sea, as normally he depicted rolling hills within his many landcape scenes, some of which also appeared within this collection of improvisations. In the background of this piece is a small row of white buildings that will represent land, and this possibly has connections to passages of religious scripture as a symbol of peace against the manic chaos of the waves. This has not been confirmed however, and so we are left to speculate on the content of this piece.

Kandinsky is known to have spoken about his hopes for humanity to move awat from the material world and push towards something more wholesome. Sadly for him this change was never to come and in fact we are now much worse in that regard than he ever would have witnessed. The image of this painting is therefore his way of symbolising the turbulence of his time, with a paradise indicating what could be achieved if society started to follow the right path.

The painting is now owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., USA. It was purchased by the institution in 1978 from a Swiss collector (Joseph Müller) who had originally bought it from the artist in 1913. It would now be particularly rare for any of Kandinsky's paintings to come up for sale, but it that were to happen, the prices reached would be astronomical. The Boating Party by Mary Cassatt, Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl by James McNeill Whistler and The House of Cards by Jean Siméon Chardin are certainly amongst the highlights of their extraordinary collection, though it is much more varied than purely paintings, with many drawings plus antiquities from all manner of different civilisations to be found here as well. It certainly can be considered amongst the most high profile art institutions within the entire country, and even competes well on the world stage.

Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle) in Detail Wassily Kandinsky