Moscow 1866, Neuilly-sur-Seine
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. He studied law and
political economy at the University of Moscow, 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 Azbé 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
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.