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Wassily Kandinsky

Black lines and one small, black triangular shape stand out against patches of color, in indigo and sky blue, pumpkin orange, butter yellow, emerald green, and ruby red, against a white background in this vertical, abstract painting. The paint seems thinly applied, resembling watercolor. Near the lower right corner, the black shape is roughly triangular and has five curving, parallel lines emanating from the bottom. Given the title of this painting, Improvisation 31, Sea Battle, the black lines could represent tall masts and outlines of sails amid areas of vibrant color that make up a boat and water around it.

Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1978.48.1

Wassily Kandinsky was a musician as well as a painter—sometimes both at the same time! Kandinsky believed that paintings, like music, could express and inspire feelings in everyone. Many of his paintings have bright and bold colors that he thought connected to specific sounds and music.


How many different colors can you find? Name them.

What kinds of lines do you see? Choose a line and use your finger like a paintbrush to trace it in the air.

Can you find two boats in this painting? Can you find a city? Or do you see something else?

What color would you use to express different feelings—Happiness? Sadness? Excitement? Anger?

If this painting were a piece of music, what might it sound like to you?


Color Monster

The Color Monster (Spanish language version: El monstruo de colores)

By Anna Llenas

Color monster has lots of feelings - and a little girl helps him figure out what his feelings are through color. 


The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré

Young Kandinsky - "Vasya" - wants to paint to make music. This book tells the story of his life and how his synesthesia allowed him to explore the different possibilities of art.

MAKE: Paint to music

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Music to listen to

First, choose a special song or piece of music. Close your eyes and listen to the music. How does it make you feel? What kinds of lines, colors, and shapes do you think of as you listen to the music?

Next, listen to the music again—this time, while painting. Start with a background color (or use colored paper) to show the overall mood of the piece. Then, as you listen, paint a line that follows the melody. Pick a shape, such as a circle or square, and paint it every time you hear a part of the song that repeats. Finally, add colors inside and around the shapes that match the different feelings the music inspires in you.


  • abstract
  • battle
  • inspire
  • melody

Register for the Art Tales pre-K school tour

Send images of your students' projects that follow these activities - email [email protected]