This is my composition
inspired by Kandinsky’s’ color theories
and his masterpiece “Yellow-Red-Blue”.
It represents the sounds
associated with these emotions:

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Play A Kandinsky Play A Kandinsky
Yellow Red Blue Painting


‘Play a Kandinsky’ invites you to hear what Kandinsky might have heard when painting Yellow, Red, Blue by bringing to life his theories on his synesthesia & abstract art. There are two chapters to the experience, first explore Kandinsky's theories on colour & sound and the relationship between shapes, then discover the emotions Kandinsky associated with colour & shape and 'play the painting'. You can create your own 'mix' and share your mood as inspired by Kandinsky.

This project is a collaboration between Centre Pompidou and Google Arts & Culture. The sounds you hear are an interpretation by sound artists Antoine Bertin and NSDOS, they do not represent exactly what Kandinsky heard but are inspired by his extensive writing on the sounds he associated with colours & shapes.

Many thanks to Angela Lampe, Curator, National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou.

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Wassily Portrait

Vassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), Russian painter, naturalized German, and then French, citizen.
Known as a pioneer of abstract art, and for his theories on a spiritual approach to art and " inner necessity," Kandinsky approached form in a profoundly experimental way throughout his life. His conception of a new and immediate relationship between the artist and the spectator, as well as that of a total art, paved the way for 20th and 21st century art.

1900–1907: Formative Years and Travels
Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 to a well-to-do, cultured family. He was 30 years old when, in 1896, having successfully studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, he decided to focus on painting and went to Munich to study. Among other things, this late choice of vocation was due to a revelation Kandinsky had in front of one of Monet's Haystacks during a French art exhibition in Moscow in 1895: a painting does not have to depict an object. In Munich, Kandinsky would break away from the academic institution. Along with some other artists, he founded the Phalanx group and an art school. There he met the artist Gabriele Münter who would be his partner until the start of the Great War. Not yet divorced from his cousin Ania, he travelled with Münter through Europe and Northern Africa, and in 1906 they lived in Paris for a year. His small-format landscapes show his wandering neo-impressionism.

1908–1914: From The Blue Rider to the Abstract
In 1908, Kandinsky returned to Munich. His painting tended to focus primarily on colors and abstraction. He spent his summers at Murnau, in the Bavarian countryside, with Gabriele Münter and found inspiration in the landscape and local Russian folklore, which constituted a mythical source for him and which he depicted with striking colors and lines. His first major work on art theory, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Painting in Particular, was published at the end of 1911. He developed his artistic vocabulary throughout the series Improvisations, Impressions, and finally, Compositions, named in reference to music. The Blue Rider Almanac (Der Blue Rider) published in 1912, with Franz Marc, used a multidisciplinary approach to the arts to show that "the question of art is not that of form, but of artistic content." In 1914, as the war escalated, Kandinsky had to leave Munich because he was a citizen of an enemy nation. He took refuge in Switzerland, before returning to Moscow.

1915–1921: Return to Moscow
Almost immediately after he started painting, Kandinsky began moving towards utilizing ever more geometric pictorial elements. After separating from Münter for good in early 1916, he married 20-year-old Nina Andreievskaïa. After the October 1917 revolution, he dedicated himself to the development of Russian cultural policy within the fields of art, education, and museum reform. He founded the "physico-psychological" department of the Academy of Artistic Sciences in 1921. However, he was artistically isolated, and in a very precarious financial situation. At the end of 1921, official duties in Germany enabled him to leave his country for Berlin, and subsequently to accept a position as a professor at the Bauhaus, the famous multidisciplinary art school, founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar.

1922–1933: Bauhaus, Weimar, Dessau, Berlin
During his years at the Bauhaus, where he was reunited with his friend Paul Klee, geometric shapes like the circle played a significant role both in his teaching and in his painting. He also created many of his masterpieces during this period, such as (On White II (Auf Weiss II), 1923, Yellow-Red-Blue (Gelb-Rot-Blau), 1925, On the Points (Auf den Punkten), 1928) as well as a number of artistic experiments (from murals to stage design) and experimental techniques (airbrushing). His second theoretical work Point and Line to Plane was published in 1926.The school was founded on the principle of uniting art with multidisciplinary learning, and its members both lived and studied on the premise; Kandinsky enjoyed his time there, although he was reluctant to accept the school's new functionalist and progressive objectives. Due to the rise of the Nazis in 1933, the school was forced to close. Two of Kandinsky's canvases and twelve of his graphic works would be featured in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition in Munich in 1937.

1934–1944: The Final Years in Paris
Kandinsky had to flee again, and chose Paris. He set up his studio in a two-bedroom apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine where he had a view of the Seine. He produced a lot of art but sold very little. He spent time with Jean Arp and Joan Miro. His artistic evolution was marked by a surprising softness and and new freedom in his painting (Sky Blue (Bleu de Ciel, 1940). His years in Paris brought a more organic and natural flair to his geometric abstraction. In spite of hardship brought on by the war, Kandinsky refused to emigrate to the United States. From 1942, the situation worsened, and Kandinsky would paint flat on makeshift wood and cardboard supports. His palette darkened. Kandinsky died from a stroke on December 13, 1944.


Kandinsky developed theories about the psychology of colour by determining which what emotions colour convey and to each colour, he assigned different instruments he heard thanks to his synesthetic abilities. Below are extracts from his books: Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Point and Line to Plane:

Yellow Triangle Blue Oval Red Rectangle

“According to Kandinsky…, a dull shape like a circle deserves a dull color like blue. A shape with intermediate interest like a square deserves an intermediate color like red. A dynamic, interesting shape like a triangle deserves an enegetic, luminous, psychotic color like yellow.

Yellow Rectangle

‘warm’, ‘cheeky and exciting’, ‘disturbing for people’, ‘typical earthly color’, ‘madness’, ‘an attack of rage’, ‘blind madness’, ‘maniacal rage’.

loud, sharp trumpets, high fanfares

Blue Rectangle

deep, inner, supernatural, peaceful, ‘Sinking towards black, it has the overtone of a mourning that is not human, ‘typical heavenly color’.

light blue: flute darker blue: cello darkest blue of all: organ

Green Rectangle

stillness, peace, but with hidden strength, passive, ‘green is like a fat, very healthy cow lying still and unmoving, only capable of chewing the cud, regarding the world with stupid dull eyes’.

quiet, drawn-out, middle position violin

Small Red Rectangle

alive, restless, confidently striving towards a goal, glowing, ‘manly maturity’. Light warm red: strenght, energy, joy; vermillion: glowing passion, sure strenght; light cold red: youthful, pure joy, young.

‘sound of a trumpet, strong, harsh’ Fanfare, tuba, deep notes on the cello high, clear violin

Black Rectangle

‘Not without possibilities […] like an eternal silence, without future and hope’, extinguished, immovable.

‘final pause, after which any continuation of the melofy seems the dawn of anothe world’

Purple Rectangle

‘morbid, extinguished […] sad’

english horn, shawm, bassoon

Orange Rectangle

radiant, healthy, serious

middle range church bell, alto voice, ‘an alto violin, singing tone, largo’

Brown Rectangle

dull, hard, inhibited

Grey Rectangle

‘immovability which is hopeless’


White Rectangle

‘it is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities.’

‘Harmony of silence’, ‘pause that breaks temporarily the melody’

A Schema regarding Angles

30° is a sharp angle and therefore an aggressive one: for Kandinsky this is best matched by the colour yellow.

90° is a straight angle and best matched by the colour red - as it similarly matches a square.

As the angle opens up and becomes more dull, the colour leans towards blue (150°) as it becomes less and less aggressive.

When the angle complitely flattens out, turning into an horizontal line, it becomes black (180°).

A white line is positioned vertically, in opposition to black.

Together with colour, Kandinsky theorised about shapes:

Black Oval


It belongs to language and signifies silence. In the flow of speech, the point symbolizes interruption, non-existence (negative element), and at the same time it forms a bridge from one existence to another (positive element). It is perceived as percussive elements, the point presents the briefest, constant, innermost assertion: short, fixed and quickly created. Kandinsky assimilated this shape to the sharp blow on a kettle-drum or a triangle in music, or to the short taps of the woodpecker in nature.

Horizontal Line


Coldness and flatness are the basic sounds of this line, and it can be designated as the most concise form of the potentiality for end- less cold movement

Vertical Line


Vertical line is the most concise form of the potentiality for end- less warm movement



The curved line is a straight line with specific pressures applied to its movement. In contrast to the straight line, the curved lines smooth movement creates a mature and fuller sound.



The diagonal line is the mix between horizontal (cold) and vertical (warm) movement. This temperature coincides with the line’s proximity to the horizontal and vertical direction.

Group of Horizontal Lines


Lines can be arranged in what Kandinsky calls a rhythm which are specific ways of repeating a line. These occur in linear, radial, and random placements.

Thick Line


The pitch of the various instruments corresponds to the width of the line: thicker line represents the tone of the viola, clarinet; and the lines become more broad via the deep- toned instruments, broadest line representing the deepest tones produced by the bass-viol or the tuba

Fine Line


The pitch of the various instruments corresponds to the width of the line: a very fine line represents the sound produced by the violin, flute or piccolo.



Planes are often characterised by the colour they are filled with but their tone will be influenced by the surrounding shapes. Forms lying near the border of the BP augment the "dramatic" sound of the construction, whereas those forms lying away from the border, which gather more about the center, lend a "lyrical" sound to the construction.

And, finally, all shapes and colours influence each others:

For Kandinsky, a composition of colours and shapes can convey an emotional response in the viewer only thanks to all the individual elements working together to form the painting: it is their influence upon each other that conveys something. Also a single sound works the same, it must be considered within the composition of all sounds to work together to make up the movement of the masterpiece.


Learn how composers Antoine Bertin & NSDOS collaborated with Machine learning to interpret what Kandinsky might have heard when ‘composing’ Yellow, Red, Blue - inviting you to hear and play the painting.

The sounds you hear in Play a Kandinsky emerged through an extensive dialog between the composers - Antoine Bertin & NSDOS -and machine learning model Transformer created by Magenta, a Google Research team. The artists were inspired by music from Kandinsky’s personal phonograph collection which was the starting point of a collaboration between artist and machine exploring the relationship between sounds, colours and shapes in Kandinky’s painting, Yellow Red Blue. The algorithm was invited to generate new scores that enabled the composers to pick, cut, rearrange, sometimes re-inject into Transformer and eventually bring into the experience. Working within the concepts of abstract art defined by Kandinsky, Antoine Bertin and NSDOS have associated instruments and emotions to shapes and colours according to the writings of Kandinsky. The architecture and interactivity of the piece is driven by the detailed ways in which Kandinsky speaks of the relationship between the elements and how they come together as one organism.

In this project, machine learning was both a collaborator & a tool for the composers enabling them to piece together the information left by Kandinsky to create a speculative experience of what he may have heard when painting Yellow, Red, Blue in 1925.

The composition and experience is articulated around the idea of attraction and repulsion of the viewer’s gaze. The multitude of colours and shapes in Yellow Red Blue interact with each other similarly the ways in which gravity connects objects in the universe. Each viewer of Kandinsky’s work is attracted to certain shapes, colours, parts of the painting in their own unique way. The composition reflects this idea by letting the visitor choose which part of the work they would like to focus their ears on. Just like our eyes see constellations in the sky, we defined 7 main areas or “symphonies” in the canvas listeners can immerse themselves in.

The composition is divided into 7 movements defined by the visual ‘clusters’ that invites users to choose where they focus their listening. Defining the composition in this way reflects Kandinsky’s approach to painting Yellow, Red Blue; he ‘composed’ visually contrasting areas using a multitude of colours and shapes inviting the viewer to let their gaze be attracted to parts of the painting in their own unique way.

Art transgresses the boundaries within which the time would like to confine it, and so forecasts the content of the future.
(Kandinsky - Point and Line to Plane)


Yellow Shape


which Kandinsky heard as a


and associated it with emotions like


Try another shape:

Red Shape


which Kandinsky heard as a


and associated it with emotions like


Try another shape:

Blue Shape


which Kandinsky heard as an


and associated it with emotions like


Try another shape:



Select 2 emotions below to hear your mood as inspired by Kandinsky.

Shape name



Discover how the shapes of the painting influence each other. For Kandinsky the associations and relationships between shapes and colour conveyed different emotions.
Click on the connecting shapes to discover how they influence each other


You are hearing the colours and shapes associated with your selected emotions
Select the icons to discover more about the theories

Share your mood as inspired by Kandinsky

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Centre Pompidou


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The Shapes & Colours Kandinsky' associated with these emotions are highlighted above.

Keep clicking the circle.
Each color represents a sound.

This is an artistic interpretation.

Green Movement

Doesn't it sound nice