(Black) is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.
– Wassily Kandinsky, 1911
Kandinsky viewed the compositions as major statements of his artistic ideas. They share several characteristics that express this monumentality: the impressively large format, the conscious, deliberate planning of the composition, and the transcendence of representation by increasingly abstract imagery. Just as symphonies define milestones in the career of a composer, Kandinsky’s compositions represented the culmination of his artistic vision at a given moment in his career.
Later in 1911, Kandinsky produced Composition V, a much more abstract work. Here, the theme is the Resurrection of the Dead. The iconography is much more difficult to discern. Comparison must be made to more representational works that treat this theme done by Kandinsky around the same time. Reference to these more literal depictions of the motifs allow us to perceive their abstracted forms within Composition V. Several angels blowing their trumpets are included in the upper portion of the canvas. The strong black line crossing from right to left can be felt as a representation of the blowing of the trumpets. Above this line, the towers of a walled-in city are visible. Below the line, the thin application of paint produces a luminescence that affects our perception of space in that portion of the canvas. The luminescence conveys a sense of infinity through the lack of volume and the absence of perspectival illusion. Out of this void, the viewer can sense the rising of the dead.