Kandinsky, Wassily
TIMELINE: Towards Abstraction

"Black is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.''
-- Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

Kandinsky, Wassily, Russian in full VASILY VASILYEVICH KANDINSKY (b. Dec. 4 [Dec. 16, New Style], 1866, Moscow, Russia--d. Dec. 13, 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.), Russian-born artist, one of the first creators of pure ab straction in modern painting. After successful avant-garde exhibitions, he founded the influential Munich group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider; 1911-14) and began completely abstract painting. His forms evolved from fluid and organic to geometric and, finally, to pictographic ( e.g., Tempered Élan, 1944).

Kandinsky, himself an accomplished musician, once said "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.'' The concept that color and musical harmony are linked has a long history, intriguing scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton. Kandinsky used color in a highly theoretical way associating tone with timbre (the sound's character), hue with pitch, and saturation with the volume of sound. He even claimed that when he saw color he heard music.

1151 x 1062 171.0K
171.0K, 1151 x 1062

Small Pleasures
Painted: 1913
Oil on canvas
110 x 120.6 cm
Sea Battle
Painted: 1913
Oil on canvas
145 x 119.7cm
National Gallery of Art
Washington D.C

510 x 654 62.8K
62.8K, 510 x 654

654 x 489 73.6K
73.6K, 654 x 489

Autumn in Bavaria
Painted: 1908
Oil on cardboard
Musee National d'Art Moderne

Black Spot I
Painted: 1912
Oil on canvas
100 x 130 cm
The Hermitage
St. Petersburg

1074 x 805 199.4K
199.4K, 1074 x 805

711 x 536 54.4K
54.4K, 711 x 536

Black and Violet
Painted: 1923

The Garden at Les Lauves
Painted: 1906
Oil on canvas
65.4 x 80.9 cm
The Phillips Collection

1135 x 744 165.0K
165.0K, 1135 x 744

1132 x 716 166.8K
166.8K, 1132 x 716

Composition IV
Painted: 1911
Oil on canvas
159.5 x 250.5 cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfallen

Composition V
Painted: 1911
Oil on canvas
190 x 275 cm
Private collection

1087 x 759 170.8K
170.8K, 1087 x 759

1132 x 745 174.2K
174.2K, 1132 x 745

Composition VI
Painted: 1913
Oil on canvas
195 x 300 cm
Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg

Composition VII
Painted: 1913
Oil on canvas
200 x 300 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

1135 x 757 199.5K
199.5K, 1135 x 757

1090 x 755 139.8K
139.8K, 1090 x 755

Composition VIII
Painted: 1923
Oil on canvas
140 x 201 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York

Composition IX
Painted: 1936
Oil on canvas
113.5 x 195 cm
Musee National d'Art Moderne

1199 x 697 124.3K
124.3K, 1199 x 697

451 x 635 56.1K
56.1K, 451 x 635

Contrasting Sounds
Painted: 1924
Oil on cardboard
Musee National d'Art Moderne

Fragment 2 for Composition VII
Painted: 1913
Oil on canvas
87.5 x 99.5 cm
Albright-Knox Art Gallery

993 x 877 183.2K
183.2K, 993 x 877

798 x 1049 184.8K
184.8K, 798 x 1049

Improvisation 7
Oil on canvas
131 x 97 cm
Tretyakov Gallery

On White II
Painted: 1923
Oil on canvas
105 x 98cm
Musee National d'Art Moderne

510 x 620 52.1K
52.1K, 510 x 620

654 x 415 52.7K
52.7K, 654 x 415

Yellow, Red, Blue
Painted: 1925
Oil on canvas
Musee National d'Art Moderne

Ravine Improvisation
Painted: 1914
Oil on cardboard
110 x 110 cm

672 x 668 108.1K
108.1K, 672 x 668

Born in Moscow in 1866, Kandinsky 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. In 1895 Kandinsky attended a French Impressionist exhibition where he saw Monet's Haystacks at Giverny. He stated, "It was from the catalog I learned this was a haystack. I was upset I had not recognized it. I also thought the painter had no right to paint in such an imprecise fashion. Dimly I was aware too that the object did not appear in the picture..." Soon thereafter, at the age of thirty, Kandinsky left Moscow and went to Munich to study life-drawing, sketching and anatomy, regarded then as basic for an artistic education.

Ironically, Kandinsky's work moved in a direction that was of much greater abstraction than that which was pioneered by the Impressionists. It was not long before his talent surpassed the constraints of art school and he began exploring his own ideas of painting - "I applied streaks and blobs of colors onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could..." Now considered to be the founder of abstract art, his work was exhibited throughout Europe from 1903 onwards, and often caused controversy among the public, the art critics, and his contemporaries. An active participant in several of the most influential and controversial art movements of the 20th century, among them the Blue Rider which he founded along with Franz Marc and the Bauhaus which also attracted Klee, Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), and Schonberg, Kandinsky continued to further express and define his form of art, both on canvas and in his theoretical writings. His reputation became firmly established in the United State s through numerous exhbitions and his work was introduced to Solomon Guggenheim, who became one of his most enthusiastic supporters.

In 1933, Kandinsky left Germany and settled near Paris, in Neuilly. The paintings from these later years were again the subject of controversy. Though out of favor with many of the patriarchs of Paris's artistic community, younger artists admired Kandinsky. His studio was visited regularly by Miro, Arp, Magnelli and Sophie Tauber.

Kandinsky continued painting almost until his death in June, 1944. his unrelenting quest for new forms which carried him to the very extremes of geometric abstraction have provided us with an unparalleled collection of abstract art.

Continues Reading: Kandinsky and abstraction