Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)

Vasily Kandinsky (French (born Russia), Moscow 1866–1944 Neuilly-sur-Seine)
Oil on canvas
47 3/8 x 55 1/4 in. (120.3 x 140.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 908
In his influential treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky theorized a new form of artistic expression that would reject the materialist world in favor of emotional and spiritual ideals, using abstract forms and color symbolism to evoke an inner, preconscious world. Composed of dark lines and abstract colorful masses, Improvisation 27 depicts three iterations of an embracing couple surrounded by serpentine forms. Kandinsky hints at the painting’s possible subject in the subtitle "Garden of Love II," likely a reference to biblical Eden.
#2004. Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)
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Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Kandinsky 1912
[Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Munich, until 1913; sold on March 8, 1913 for $500 to Stieglitz]; Alfred Stieglitz, New York (1913–d. 1946; his estate, 1946–49; gift to MMA)

Berlin. Galerie Der Sturm. "Erste Ausstellung: Der Blaue Reiter, Franz Flaum, Oskar Kokoschka, Expressionisten," March 12–before April 12, 1912, no. 48.

Berlin. Galerie Der Sturm. "Zweite Ausstellung," April 12–May 31, 1912.

Berlin. Galerie Der Sturm. "Kandinsky Kollektiv-Ausstellung 1902–1912," October 1912, not in catalogue [possibly this work].

New York. Armory of the Sixty-ninth Regiment. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," February 17–March 15, 1913, no. 213.

Art Institute of Chicago. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," March 24–April 16, 1913, no. 185.

Copley Hall, Copley Society of Boston. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," April 28–May 19, 1913, no. 92.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "History of an American, Alfred Stieglitz: '291' and After, Selections from the Stieglitz Collection," July 1–November 1, 1944, no. 120.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Alfred Stieglitz Exhibition: His Collection," June 10–August 31, 1947, no catalogue (checklist no. 48; as "Painting No. 1").

Art Institute of Chicago. "Alfred Stieglitz: His Photographs and His Collection," February 2–29, 1948, extended to March 7, 1948, no catalogue (checklist no. 55; as "Painting No. 1").

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection: An Extended Loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 22–August 12, 1951, no catalogue (checklist no. E.L.51.651; loan extended to December 9, 1957).

Amherst, Mass. Amherst College, Mead Arts Building. "The 1913 Armory Show in Retrospect," February 17–March 17, 1958, no. 26.

Utica. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. "1913 Armory Show, 50th Anniversary Exhibition," February 17–March 31, 1963, no. 213.

New York. Armory of the Sixty-ninth Regiment. "1913 Armory Show, 50th Anniversary Exhibition," April 6–28, 1963, no. 213.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, not in catalogue.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Kandinsky: The Improvisations," April 26–August 2, 1981, unnum. brochure (in "Chronology" under 1913).

Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. "Landscape Painting in the East and West," April 19–June 1, 1986, no. 33.

Kobe City Museum. "Landscape Painting in the East and West," June 7–July 13, 1986, no. 33.

Madrid. Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación "la Caixa". "Kandinsky / Mondrian: Dos caminos hacia la abstracción," September 16–November 13, 1994, no. 27.

Centre Cultural de la Fundación "la Caixa". "Kandinsky / Mondrian: Dos caminos hacia la abstracción," November 25, 1994–January 22, 1995, no. 27.

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Paris. Centre Pompidou. "Kandinsky: Absolute Abstract," April 8–August 10, 2009, no. 33.

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Vasily Kandinsky. Kandinsky, 1901-1913. Berlin, 1913, p. 67, ill.

J. Nilsen Laurvik. "New Paths in Art: Apropos the International Exhibition of Art." International 7 (April 1913), p. 89.

"Art Extremists in Broadsides of Lurid Color Invade New York and Capture an Armory." New York Herald (February 17, 1913), p. 10.

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Samuel Swift. "Art Photographs and Cubist Painting." Sun (March 3, 1913), p. 7.

Israel White. "Art's Trend Is Exhibit Lesson: Association of Painters and Sculptors Show Forces Working in Modern Expressionism: Form Figures to Futurists." Newark Evening News (February 18, 1913), p. 7.

Arthur Jerome Eddy. Cubists and Post-Impressionism. Chicago, 1914, pp. 115-16.

Vasily Kandinsky. V. V. Kandinsky: Tekst Khudozhnika. Moscow, 1918, p. 20, fig. 9.

"The Great Armory Show of 1913." Life 28 (January 2, 1950), p. 61, ill.

Meyer Schapiro. "Rebellion in Art." America in Crisis: Fourteen Crucial Episodes in American History. Ed. Daniel Aaron. New York, 1952, p. 213.

Kenneth C. Lindsay. "Kandinsky in 1914 New York: Solving a Riddle." Art News 55 (May 1956), p. 33.

Will Grohmann. Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work. New York, [1958], p. 355, no. 74, ill.

Milton W. Brown. The Story of the Armory Show. Greenwich, Conn., 1963, pp. 92, 104, 256, no. 213, ill.

Hideho Nishida. "Genèse du Cavalier bleu." XXe siècle (December 1966), p. 23.

George Heard Hamilton. "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), pp. 381–82, fig. 9.

Dominique Bosseur. "Les revues américanes et les 'Little Magazines'." L'année 1913: Les formes esthétiques de l'oeuvre d'art à la veille de la première guerre mondiale. Ed. L[iliane]. Brion-Guerry. Vol. 2, Paris, 1971, p. 1035.

Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the 20th Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, p. 105, fig. 181.

Donald E. Gordon. Modern Art Exhibitions, 1900–1916: Selected Catalogue Documentation. Vol. 2, Munich, 1974, pp. 558, 575, 614, 671, 697, 714.

Erika Hanfstaengl. Wassily Kandinsky: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle. Katalog der Sammlung in der Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus München. Munich, 1974, p. 80.

Angelica Zander Rudenstine. The Guggenheim Museum Collection. Vol. 2, Paintings 1880–1945. New York, 1976, p. 231.

Gail Levin. "Marsden Hartley and the European Avant-Garde." Arts Magazine (September 1979), p. 158 n. 31.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 504, 513, fig. 914.

Rose-Carol Washton Long. Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style. Oxford, 1980, pp. 101-6, 111, 179 n. 64, pl. vi.

Hilton Kramer. "Art View: Kandinsky's Spiritualism." New York Times (May 10, 1981), p. D35.

Hans K. Roethel and Jean K. Benjamin. Kandinsky Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings. Vol. 1, 1900–1915. Ithaca, 1982, p. 422, no. 430, ill.

John E. Bowlt. "Review of 'Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style' by Rose-Carol Washton Long." Slavic Review 41 (Spring 1982), p. 192.

Philip Pearlstein. "When Paintings Were Made in Heaven." Art in America 70 (February 1982), p. 88, ill.

Carter Ratcliff. "Kandinsky's Book of Revelation." Art in America 70 (December 1982), p. 108, ill.

Rose-Carol Washton Long. "Kandinsky's Vision of Utopia as a Garden of Love." Art Journal 43 (Spring 1983), pp. 52–55, fig. 9.

William S. Lieberman. 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 1, Painting: 1905–1945. New York, 1986, pp. 6, 24–25, 63, ill. (color, overall and detail), calls it "Improvisation Number 27: The Garden of Love".

Peter Vergo. Kandinsky Cossacks. London, 1986, p. 24, fig. 24.

Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, pp. 108–9, colorpl. 84.

Klaus Kertess. Marin in Oil. Exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum. Southhampton, N. Y., 1987, pp. 36–37, fig. 18.

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Donna M. Cassidy. "Arthur Dove's Music Paintings of the Jazz Age." American Art Journal 20 (Winter 1988), pp. 19–20, fig. 13.

Martin Green. New York 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant. New York, 1988, p. 188.

Gail Stavitsky in American Pastels in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 119, 121, fig. 37.

Sarah Whitaker Peters. Becoming O'Keeffe: The Early Years. New York, 1991, pp. 94, 96, fig. 40 (upside down).

Gail Levin and Marianne Lorenz. Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912–1950: An Exhibition Organized by the Dayton Art Institute. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. Boston, 1992, pp. 11–14, 20 n. 15, pp. 22, 24–26, 91, fig. 1.1.

Barbara Burn, ed. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 298, ill. (color), calls it "The Garden of Love (Improvisation Number 27)".

Robert M. Crunden. American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885-1917. New York, 1993, p. 322.

Christopher Butler. Early Modernism: Literature, Music, and Painting in Europe, 1900–1916. Oxford, 1994, pp. 40–41, pl. vi.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 434, no. 7, ill. (color).

Katherine Hoffman. Georgia O'Keeffe: A Celebration of Music and Dance. New York, 1997, pp. 21–22, 117, fig. 2.

Debra Bricker Balken, William C. Agee, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. Andover, Mass., and Cambridge, Mass., 1997, p. 23, fig. 7.

Lowery S. Sims. "The African-American Artist and Abstraction." Norman Lewis: Black Paintings 1946–1977. New York, 1998, p. 43, fig. 24.

Patricia McDonnell and Stacey Epstein. Concerning Expressionism: American Modernism and the German Avant-Garde. Exh. cat., Hollis Taggart Galleries. New York, 1998, pp. 22, 24–25, fig. 2.

William B. Scott. New York Modern: The Arts and the City. Baltimore, 1999, p. 61.

Gerald N. Izenberg. Modernism and Masculinity: Mann, Wedekind, Kandinsky through World War I. Chicago, 2000, p. 212, pl. 4.

Donna M. Cassidy. Jazz: An American Muse. "Seeing" Musically: The Meanings of Music in 20th-Century American Art. Exh. cat., Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Winston-Salem, N. C., 2000, pp. 10–11, fig. 8.

Peter–Cornell Richter. Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. New York, 2001, pp. 72–73, ill.

Hilton Kramer. "Majestic Stieglitz Show Charts Modernist Course." New York Observer (February 5, 2001), p. 16.

John Loughery. "The Example of Alfred Stieglitz." Hudson Review 54 (Summer 2001), p. 287.

Sarah Greenough. Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs. New York, 2002, p. 233, ill.

James Timothy Voorhies, ed. My Dear Stieglitz: Letters of Marsden Hartley and Alfred Stieglitz, 1912–1915. Columbia, S. C., 2002, p. 68 n. 2.

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Kathleen Pyne. Modernism and the Feminine Voice: O'Keeffe and the Women of the Stieglitz Circle. Berkeley, 2007, pp. xiii–xiv, 145, fig. 76.

Debra Bricker Balken. Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2009, pp. 33–34, fig. 25.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, pp. 384–85, 411, ill. (color, overall and detail).

Matthew Drutt. The Armory Show 1913: A Centennial Reckoning (February 2013), p. 78, ill. (color).

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 521, ill. (color), colorpl. 435.