Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Was Kandinsky a Synaesthete? Examining His Writings and Other Evidence

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Multisensory Research
For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

Wassily Kandinsky is widely regarded as one of the most prominent examples of a synaesthetic artist. However, in the scientific literature there is disagreement on the genuineness of his synaesthesia. This paper investigates whether Kandinsky had inborn synaesthesia, while acknowledging that there are also types of induced synaesthesia which he may have cultivated. As these two types of synaesthesia are seen to work additively in some synaesthetes and not to be mutually exclusive, this is not seen as an argument against the view that he was a true inborn synaesthete. Whether Kandinsky was a synaesthete is examined through a detailed study of his primary writings (e.g., On the Spiritual in Art, Point and Line to Plane, and Reminiscences), in light of the modern diagnostic criteria. The experiences described in those writings indicate that his synaesthetic perceptions were genuine and inborn and not just a theoretical endeavour. Given the genetic dimension of synaesthesia, this view is further supported by the fact that Kandinsky’s uncle Victor Kandinsky also described having synaesthetic experiences.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Tinbergen Building, 9 South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Amin M., Olu-Lafe O., Claessen L. E., Sobczak-Edmans M., Ward J., Williams A. L., Sagiv N. (2011). "Understanding grapheme personification: a social synaesthesia?" J. Neuropsychol. Vol 5, 255282. [Crossref]
2. Asher J. E., Lamb J. A., Brocklebank D., Cazier J. B., Maestrini E., Addis L., Sen M., Baron-Cohen S., Monaco A. P. (2009). "A whole-genome scan and fine-mapping linkage study of auditory-visual synesthesia reveals evidence of linkage to chromosomes 2q24, 5q33, 6p12, and 12p12", Am. J. Hum. Genet. Vol 84, 279285. [Crossref]
3. Barnett K. J., Finucane C., Asher J. E., Bargary G., Corvin A. P., Newell F. N., Mitchell K. J. (2008). "Familial patterns and the origins of individual differences in synaesthesia", Cognition Vol 106, 871893. [Crossref]
4. Baron-Cohen S., Harrison J. E. (Eds) (1997). Synaesthesia: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK.
5. Besant A., Leadbeater C. W. (1901). Thought-Forms: a Record of Clairvoyant Investigation. The Theosophical Publishing House, London, UK.
6. Cytowic R. (1993). The Man who Tasted Shapes. Abacus, London, UK.
7. Cytowic R. E., Eagleman D. (2009). Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.
8. Dann K. (1998). Bright Colours Falsely Seen. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
9. Eagleman D. M., Kagan A. D., Nelson S. S., Sagaram D., Sarma A. K. (2007). "A standardized test battery for the study of synesthesia", J. Neurosci. Meth. Vol 159, 139145. [Crossref]
10. Harrison J. (2001). Synaesthesia: the Strangest Thing. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
11. Ione A., Tyler C. (2003). "Was Kandinsky a synesthete?" J. Hist. Neurosci. Vol 12, 223226. [Crossref]
12. Ione A., Tyler C. (2004). "Neuroscience, history and the arts synesthesia: Is F-sharp colored violet?" J. Hist. Neurosci. Vol 13, 5865. [Crossref]
13. Kandinsky V. R. (1881). "Zur Lehre yon den Hallucinationen [On the teaching about hallucinations]", Archiv Psychiatr. Nervenkr. Vol 11, 453464. [Crossref]
14. Kandinsky W. (1911a). "On the spiritual in art", in: Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Lindsay K., Vergo P. (Eds) (1982), pp.  114220. Da Capo Press, New York, NY, USA.
15. Kandinsky W. (1911b). Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1977). Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY, USA.
16. Kandinsky W. (1913). "Reminiscences", in: Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Lindsay K., Vergo P. (Eds) (1982), pp.  357382. Da Capo Press, New York, NY, USA.
17. Kandinsky W. (1926). "Point and line to plane", in: Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Lindsay K., Vergo P. (Eds) (1982), pp.  524700. Da Capo Press, New York, NY, USA.
18. Kandinsky W. (1929). "The psychology of the productive personality", in: Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Lindsay K., Vergo P. (Eds) (1982), pp.  737740. Da Capo Press, New York, NY, USA.
19. Leadbeater C. W. (1903). Man Visible and Invisible: Examples of Different Types of Men as Seen by Means of Trained Clairvoyance. John Lane, The Bodley Head, NY, USA.
20. Lerner V., Witztum E. T. (2003). "Victor Kandinsky, MD: psychiatrist, researcher and patient", Hist. Psychiat. Vol 14, 103111. [Crossref]
21. Maurer D. (2008). "Synesthesia: a scientific perspective", in: Synesthesia: Art and the Mind, Berman G., Steen C. J. (Eds), pp.  1116. McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
22. Ringbom S. (1970). The Sounding Cosmos: a Study in the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting. Åbo Akademi, Åbo, Finland.
23. Smilek D., Malcolmson K. A., Carriere J. S., Eller M., Kwan D., Reynolds M. (2007). "When “3” is a jerk and “E” is a king: personifying inanimate objects in synesthesia", J. Cogn. Neurosci. Vol 19, 981992. [Crossref]
24. Steen C., Berman G. (2013). "Synesthesia and the artistic process", in: Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia, Simner J., Hubbard E. M. (Eds), pp.  671691. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
25. Van Campen C. (2008). The Hidden Sense: Synaesthesia in Art and Science. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.
26. Walsh R. (2005). "Can synaesthesia be cultivated? Indications from surveys of meditators", J. Consc. Stud. Vol 12, 517.

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Multisensory Research — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation