Wassily Kandinsky – Russian Expressionist Painter (1866-1944)


One of the pioneers of Abstract Modern Art
Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) was a Russian painter and art theorist, he was considered to be the originator of Abstract Art, and believed that art could visually express musical compositions.

Wassily Kandinsky took up the study of art in earnest at age 30. A trained musician, Kandinsky approached color with a musician’s sensibility. Music influenced his art to such a degree that Kandinsky named his works after musical terms.

Of importance for his artistic development was the exhibition of French impressionists in Moscow in 1895, particularly the works of Claude Monet. In Monet‘s paintings the subject matter played a secondary role to color. Reality and fairy tale intermixed, that was the secret of Kandinsky‘s early work, which was based on folk art, and it remained so even later although more intellectualized.

An obsession with Monet led him to explore his own creative concepts of color on canvas, which were sometimes controversial among his contemporaries and critics, but Kandinsky emerged as a respected leader of the abstract art movement in the early 20th century.

Der Blaue Reiter, 1903, V. Kandinsky
Der Blaue Reiter, 1903, W. Kandinsky

Source image: en.wikipedia.org

In 1922 Kandinsky became a professor at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Together with Paul Klee, Alexei von Jawlensky, and Lyonel Feininger he founded the Blaue Vier (Blue Four) group in 1924. As a member of the innovative school, Kandinsky‘s artistic philosophy turned toward the significance of geometric elements, specifically circles, half-circles, straight lines, angles, squares, checkerboards, and triangles. In 1926, he published his second major theoretical work, Point and Line to Plane that outlined his ideas about a “science of painting.” In both his work and theory he shifted from the romantic, intuitive expression of his pre-war canvases to an emphasis on constructively organized compositions.

The period of teaching at the Bauhaus has been defined as his architectural period. The shapes are more precise than before: there are points, straight or broken lines, single or in bunches, and snakelike, radiating segments of circles, the color is cooler, more subdued, with occasional outbursts of earlier expressionist tonality. This period is exemplified in Composition VIII (1923).

Composition VIII, 1923, V. Kandinsky
Composition VIII, 1923, W. Kandinsky

Source image: it.wikipedia.org

What is the artistic style of Kandinsky?

Art and sound were one and the same to him, because it is believed he had synaesthesia (a harmless condition that allowed him to appreciate two or more senses simultaneously).

Kandinsky could not only see the color blue, he could hear it, he associated colors and tones with specific musical timbres. Part of his goal as an artist was to depict and share his synaesthetic experiences. The result is a painting that is complex and visually stimulating, with color combinations that reverberate.

“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”

Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky could not only see the color blue, he could hear it, he associated colors and tones with specific musical timbres. Part of his goal as an artist was to depict and share his synaesthetic experiences. The result is a painting that is complex and visually stimulating, with color combinations that reverberate.

Wassily Kandinsky exploited the evocative interrelation between color and form to create an aesthetic experience that engaged the sight, sound, and emotions of the public. He believed that total abstraction offered the possibility for profound, transcendental expression and that copying from nature only interfered with this process.

Composition X, 1938-1939, V. Kandinsky
Composition X, 1938-1939, W. Kandinsky

Source image: it.wikipedia.org

Highly inspired to create art that communicated a universal sense of spirituality, he innovated a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist’s inner experience. His visual vocabulary developed through three phases, shifting from his early, representative canvases and their divine symbolism to his rapturous and operatic compositions, to his late, geometric and biomorphic flat planes of color. Kandinsky‘s art and ideas inspired many generations of artists, from his students at the Bauhaus to the Abstract Expressionists after World War II.

Kandinsky is still greatly admired today for his own paintings and for being the originator of abstract art. He invented a language of abstract forms with which he replaced the forms of nature. He wanted to mirror the universe in his own visionary world. He felt that painting possessed the same power as music and that sign, line, and color ought to correspond to the vibrations of the human soul.

Kandinsky‘s work, both artistic and theoretical, played a large role in the philosophic foundation for later modern movements, in particular Abstract Expressionism and its variants like Color Field painting.

Kandinsky set the stage for much of the Expressive Modern Art produced in the twentieth century.

Info source: www.theartstory.orgwww.encyclopedia.com

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