The Blue Rider.
W.Kandinsky and F.Mark (Editors),
Z.S.Pyshnovskaya (translation and commentaries),
"Izobraziltel'noye Iskusstvo",
Moscow, 1996 [in Russian] ISBN 5-85 200-3

It is very hard for western readers and young people of today's Russia to believe but it is an indisputable fact: the propaganda of abstract art was penalized in Soviet times as a serious crime! That's why Soviet readers were familiarized with the well-known book-manifesto "Der Blaue Reiter (published by W.Kandinsky and F.Mark still in 1912 in Munich [in German] [1] only from critical literature. At times we got some pieces of information about reissues of the "Blue Rider" in different languages, and also about international symposiums and special monographs devoted to the given issue [2,3]. But nearly 85 years was required for the "Blue Rider" to "begin to neigh" in Russian (God, forgive me this "horse" style).

It is worthwhile to note that the international collection of papers included reports of such German artists and musicians as F.Mark, A.Macke, and Schoenberg, France was presented by articles of R.Allard and E.V.Busse. But most of the authors were of Russian origin - W.Kandinsky himself, artist D.Burlyuk, musicologists L.Sabanyev and N.Kul'bin, composer T.Hartmann, writers M.Kuz'min and V.Rosanov. Almost all articles were provided with a large number of intra-text illustrations. The Russian authors were invited by W.Kandinsky who translated their materials from Russian into German and annotated them. The keynote of all articles is the revolution in art at the interface of XIX-XX centuries, destruction of national and professional boundaries, and the main thing, the triumph of ideas of arts synthesis (it is this theme that was discussed in articles of Sabaneyev, Kandinsky, and Schoenberg; Kandinsky, moreover, appended also the scenario of his scenic composition "Yellow sound").

The new edition of "The Blue Rider" was translated from German into Russian with detailed commentaries by art critic Z.S.Pyshnovskaya. She also supplied this book with an additional introduction and summary, "From the history of Blue Rider". Everything seems to indicate that the book was prepared for press a long time ago, but publication was impeded by lack of financial means. Thank heavens, in 1996 the publishers received a grant from the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Foundation; with this help the book has finally been printed.

The publication of this book was a significant event for the cultural public of Russia. The number of literary works in Russian about the history of abstract art, and, specifically, about W.Kandinsky, has been relatively scarce. There is a kind of "Renaissance", that is, there is both a renewal of interest and the possibility to publish similar materials openly only observed in the last few years (notably the re-publication of works by W.Kandinsky himself and publication of new monographic studies of his native activity [5,6].

It is natural that the frantic haste of the process of publication of "The Blue Rider" in Russian should work to diminish its quality. Clearly, the book was printed in a slapdash manner due in part to the state of joyous excitation at attaining the grant and compounded by the fact that the grant was actually insufficient to provide high-quality printing and polygraphy. For instance, the illustrations with music notation are missing in the articles devoted to musicology. The use of one and the same fontsize and weight throughout the book makes it difficult to distinguish between the introduction and commentaries of W.Kandinsky (1912)as well as the new insertions of the present publisher (1996). The same can be said about illustrations which the present publishers have to place at the end of the book in the form of a separate appendix (by pulling them out of the articles' text)(by placing them beyond any connection with the article text). Besides, it is impossible to understand why disappeared so many illustrations that could be seen in the original (1912); instead, there appeared new illustrations introduced by the present publisher.

Is it reasonable to publish such a historical retrospective? To avoid confusion we have found it necessary to speak aloud about all these peculiarities and shortcomings of the new Russian edition while admitting the fact that publication of such a non- commercial book in today's Russia is a heroic deed! But even though we can forgive the draw-backs as being caused by some external circumstances (haste, lack of necessary means, and so on) one can put the blame for the following errors on the publisher himself.

As was mentioned above, the Russian texts of the 1912 edition were translated into German by W.Kandinsky. The present publisher has carried out the reverse translation of these articles from German back into Russian. We can suppose that as the result of such double translation, the exact sense of the texts may be distorted and even be lost! In fact this is what has happened. Anyone may check this for themselves: Kandinsky had published his article " Uber Buhnen Composition" in his native Russian in 1919 [7], while the Sabaneyev's article "Prometheus' was published by him in Russian earlier in 1911 [8].

If we compare these Russian originals with their new Russian translations, it is clear that something has been lost in translation. It is probable that there exist somewhere else a number of published or unpublished originals of other Russian authors; when "returning" these texts to the motherland, one should strive for scrupulous restoration of the primary sources. In any case I would like to warn the readers that in the above- mentioned Sabaneyev's article, for instance, there is a confusion and it is very considerable. When preparing the Russian edition the expert of Kandinsky's works and the "Blue Rider" would have to be aware of and familiar with these initial texts.

I regretfully write about these blunders (who wants to be a "kill-joy?"). Nonetheless, I think that readers and art experts must know about these blunders in this so valuable an edition; as they say :"Plato is my friend but the truth is more precious".

I can only hope that such works as the "Blue Rider" will be more readily published in their native Russian in the future, and therefore be more available.


  1. "Der Blaue Reiter Almanach" (Hrsg. W.Kandinsky und F.Mark). Munchen: R. Piper und C Verlag, 1912.
  2. "Der Blaue Reiter. Documenten einer geistigen Bewegung." Leipzig, 1986 Verlag Philipp Reclam.
  3. A.Zweite. "The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus" Munich; Prestel Verlag, 1989.
  4. Kandinsky W. "On Spiritual in Art." Leningrad; Leningradskaya Galereya, 1990 (in Russian).
  5. Wassili Kandinsky. Art exhibition catalogue. Leningrad; Avrora, 1989 (in Russian).
  6. Sarabyanov D., and Avtonomova N. Wasili Kandinsky "Path of Artist. Artist and Time. " Moscow; Galart, 1994 (in Russian)
  7. Kandinsky W. "On Scenic Composition." Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo, 1919, N1 (in Russian)
  8. Sabaneyev L. Scriabin's "Prometey". Muzyka, 1911, N13 (in Russian).

Bulat Galeyev

(Pablished in Leonardo Digital Reviews, Oct, 1997, v.5, N9)