Wassily Kandinsky

(1866-1944)

Ranked among the artists whose work changed the history of art in the early years of the 20th century, the Russian abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky is generally regarded as one of the originators of abstract painting, or abstract expressionism. In both his painting and his theoretical writings he influenced modern styles. Spending many years of his life in Germany, Kandinsky became an instrumental force in the development of German expressionism.

Kandinsky was born in Moscow on Dec. 4, 1866, and spent his early childhood in Odessa. His parents played the piano and the zither and Kandinsky himself learned the piano and cello at an early age. The influence of music in his paintings cannot be overstated, down to the names of his paintings Improvisations, Impressions, and Compositions. In 1886, he enrolled at the University of Moscow, chose to study law and economics, and after passing his examinations, lectured at the Moscow Faculty of Law. He enjoyed success not only as a teacher but also wrote extensively on spirituality, a subject that remained of great interest and ultimately exerted substantial influence in his work.

but after a visit in 1895 to an exhibition of French impressionist paintings in Moscow, Kandinsky decided to become a painter. Moving to Munich, Germany, he worked under Anton Azb and Franz von Stuck, studying impressionist color and art nouveau (an ornamental style of about 1890 to 1910).

From the very beginning Kandinsky's own work showed an interest in fantasy. Between 1900 and 1910 Kandinsky traveled widely, including visits to Paris that put him in contact with the art of Paul Gauguin, the neoimpressionists, and fauvism (a style with aggressive use of brilliant colors). He began developing his ideas concerning the power of pure color and nonrepresentational painting. In 1909 Kandinsky helped found the New Artists' Association in Munich.

Kandinsky painted his first abstract watercolor in 1910 and began formulating his important theoretical study, 'Concerning the Spiritual in Art', which was published originally in German in 1912.
In this work he examined the psychological effects of color and made comparisons between painting and music.
Together with the German painter Franz Marc, Kandinsky became a leader in the influential Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) movement, an expressionist group. He and Marc edited a Blue Rider almanac in which they reproduced art from all ages. Marc and Kandinsky organized avant-garde international exhibitions in Munich and elsewhere--exhibitions that proved to be major events in the development of German expressionism.

With the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky left Germany to return to Russia, where he taught and organized numerous artistic activities. He went back to Germany in 1921 and became one of the principal teachers at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, remaining with the school until it was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Kandinsky then moved to a Parisian suburb, where he stayed until his death on Dec. 13, 1944.

A significant change took place in Kandinsky's work during the 1920s. From the romantic superabundance of his earlier abstract expressionism, his style evolved into geometric forms--points, bundles of lines, circles, and triangles. During the last decade of his life, Kandinsky blended the free, intuitive image of his earlier years with the geometric forms of his Bauhaus period.

*** Biographical information from Compton's Encyclopedia Online (http://www.comptons.com/home_retail.html)


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