Vassily Kandinsky ~ Painter

Vasily Kandinsky was born on December 16, 1866, in Moscow. From 1886 through 1892 he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, where he lectured after graduation. In 1896 he declined a teaching position in order to study art in Munich with Anton Azbe from 1897 to 1899 and at the Kunstakademie with Franz von Stuck in 1900. Kandinsky taught in 1901–03 at the art school of the Phalanx, a group he cofounded in Munich.

One of his students, Gabriele Münter, would be his companion until 1914. In 1902 Kandinsky exhibited for the first time with the Berlin Secession and produced his first woodcuts. In 1903 and 1904 he began his travels in Italy, the Netherlands, and North Africa and his visits to Russia. He showed at the Salon d’Automne in Paris from 1904.

In 1909 Kandinsky was elected president of the newly founded Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM). The group’s first show took place at Heinrich Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich in 1909. In 1911 Kandinsky and Franz Marc began to make plans for Der Blaue Reiter Almanac, although the publication would not appear until the following year. Kandinsky’s On the Spiritual in Art was published in December 1911.

He and Marc withdrew from the NKVM in that month, and shortly thereafter the Blaue Reiter group’s first exhibition was held at the Moderne Galerie. In 1912 the second Blaue Reiter show was held at the Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich. Kandinsky’s first solo show was held at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin in 1912. In 1913 one of his works was included in the Armory Show in New York and the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon at the Der Sturm gallery in Berlin. Kandinsky lived in Russia from 1914 to 1921, principally in Moscow, where he held a position at the People’s Commissariat of Education.

Vasily Kandinsky, Black Lines oil on canvas, 51 3 8 x 51 5 8 in. 130.5 x 131.1 cm.

Vasily Kandinsky, Black Lines

Kandinsky began teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922. In 1923 he was given his first solo show in New York by the Société Anonyme, of which he became vice-president. Lyonel Feininger, Alexej Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Paul Klee made up the Blaue Vier (Blue Four) group, formed in 1924. He moved with the Bauhaus to Dessau in 1925 and became a German citizen in 1928. The Nazi government closed the Bauhaus in 1933 and later that year Kandinsky settled in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris; he acquired French citizenship in 1939. Fifty-seven of his works were confiscated by the Nazis in the 1937 purge of “degenerate art.” Kandinsky died on December 13, 1944, in Neuilly.


Vasily Kandinsky, Blue Painting

Vasily Kandinsky, Blue Painting

Vasily Kandinsky, Far Away

Vasily Kandinsky, Far Away

Vasily Kandinsky, Sketch for “Composition II”

Vasily Kandinsky, Sketch for “Composition II”

Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 Cover

Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 ~ DDM Cover


What Did Kandinsky Write on His Paintings?

By Caitlin Dover

When you look at a painting by Kandinsky, what do you see? In this video, we get the rare chance to view the artist’s work through the eyes of Gillian McMillan, Associate Chief Conservator for the Collection at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Examining his paintings with a microscope, she uncovers hidden clues about the artist’s process: “You can see . . . pinholes where the center compass went into the surface when he drew these little tiny circles,” she notes.

On the occasion of the Guggenheim building’s 50th anniversary, the museum hosted an exhibition dedicated to Kandinsky’s work, and honoring his important role in the museum’s history.

Here, McMillan and Tracey Bashkoff, Senior Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, share insights on the artist’s development and the often intensive planning that went into his practice. Bashkoff points to the themes that can be seen throughout his oeuvre: “The horse and rider, the apocalypse, the landscape, his use of geometry, his use of scientific imagery—all of these are apparent at different moments in his career. . . .” McMillan discusses the importance to conservators of understanding the structure of a painting, and explains how, with infrared, they are able to see notations in German under the paint on Sketch for “Composition II”: he wrote “colorful” in an area featuring brightly colored forms, and “red” in a section painted in that hue. Says Bashkoff of McMillan’s work, “We get a look into his whole procedure . . . and that sheds light on our art-historical research, as well.”

To learn more about Kandinsky’s practice, view his work in the museum’s Collection Online, and stop by the museum in New York to see Kandinsky in Paris, 1934–1944. On view through April 23, 2014, the exhibition examines the last 11 years of the artist’s life.

Vasily Kandinsky, Light Picture

Vasily Kandinsky, Light Picture

 Vasily Kandinsky, Around the Circle

Vasily Kandinsky, Around the Circle

Kandinsky considers art a kind of spiritual anchor when all other certitudes of life are unhinged by social and cultural upheaval:

The inner need is built up of three mystical elements:
1- Every artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression (this is the element of personality).

2- Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age (this is the element of style) — dictated by the period and particular country to which the artist belongs (it is doubtful how long the latter distinction will continue to exist).

3- Every artist, as a servant of art, has to help the cause of art (this is the element of pure artistry, which is constant in all ages and among all nationalities).

A full understanding of the first two elements is necessary for a realization of the third.

Vasily Kandinsky, Several Circles,

Vasily Kandinsky, Several Circles