Creativity Magazine

Wassily Kandinsky's Painting Titles

Posted on the 25 February 2013 by Abstractartbylt @artbylt

I used to be complimented all the time on the titles I gave to my paintings.  That was before I tried to woo Google into giving me a higher ranking by using titles like Abstract Art 1, 2, and 3, or Modern Art Thirteen—a new painting I put on my website today.

People who buy my paintings prefer real names like, Talk to Me Now.  Some guy commented online after seeing that painting, “I’ll talk to you any time.”  That’s how much he liked the painting.  Or the title.

The main thing when you’re trying to sell art is not to use names like Death Painting No. 3—a series I did during one very bad depression in Tallahassee, Florida, where I had to paint in the garage with huge spiders.  A designer later bought one of the death paintings for his client, but I first had to paint over the word death that appeared in the painting, and change its name.

Two of my favorite painting titles are Sleight of Mind and X-Oh.  My X-Oh painting had words in it like “killing me” as well as lots of x’s and o’s.  Putting words in my paintings always made me feel better when I was depressed.

Some artists think you shouldn’t give names to paintings that are non-representational.  They don’t want viewers to be influenced by a title, but to feel free to see their own interpretation in a painting.   These artists give their works names like Study #1, or even just a number by itself.

As I look at two photos of Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings, I see they are titled Composition IV, 1911 and Composition X, 1939.  I love Kandinsky’s art and I’m glad he didn’t have to think up clever titles for all his amazing paintings, even though I think the titles might have easily come to mind:  Climbing the great blue mountain to find the rainbow, and Up in the air at the balloon festival would work for these two pieces.

Kandinsky did not give all of his paintings roman numerals as titles.    Some are descriptive, like Heavy Red and Blue.  Or Improvisation No. 31 from the Improvisation series.  He didn’t have to worry about pleasing Google, though, in order to get his website to come up in the top ten when people searched for “abstract art.”

What search term would Kandinsky pick, anyway?  Wild art, play time, or intensely true?

He might have said, as I used to years ago—forget about the titles.  Look at the ART.  What do you SEE?

It’s hard to tell the word people that.

I’m a word person, too, but I don’t like to mix my genres.


Except when I’m depressed.


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