Vasilii Kandinskii (1866-1944)


Kandinskii:  Blue MountainVasilii Kandinskii was a painter, a printmaker, a stage designer, a decorative artist, and a theorist. In 1886, he began to study law and economics at the University of Moscow. Three years later, he took part in an ethnographical expedition to the Vologda province and wrote an article about folk art; this experience was to influence his early art, which would be highly decorative and would feature bright colors contrasting with the dark background. This effective technique can be seen in such paintings as Song of the Volga (1906), Couple Riding (1906), and Colorful Life (1907), devoted to the life of Old Russia. After traveling to St. Petersburg and Paris, in 1893 he was appointed to the Department of Law at the University of Moscow. In 1896, at the age of thirty, he gave up his successful career as a lawyer and economist to become a painter. He moved to Munich and one year later entered Anton Azbe's painting school. In 1900, he became a student at the Munich Academy and studied under Franz von Stuck. At that time, he was in contact with St. Petersburg World of Art group. Between 1900 and 1908, Kandinskii exhibited regularly with the Moscow Association of Artists and was very active in the Munich art world. In 1901, he founded the Phalanx (dissolved in 1904) and began teaching at a private art school in Munich. Later, Kandinskii traveled through Europe (1903-6). He was affected by the expressive possibilities of Bavarian glass painting, icon painting, and Russian folk art. In 1909, the artist started his famous Improvisations and co-founded the group Neue Kunstlervereinigung. A year later, he joined the Jack of Diamonds group and contributed to its first two exhibitions. In 1911, the artist established the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group, which included him, Muenter, Marc, and Kulbin. He participated in its exhibitions and contributed to its Almanac. The publication of the Almanac was one of the most important events in twentieth-century art. The artists of the Blue Rider believed in a birth of a new spiritual epoch and were engaged in the creation of symbols for their own time. There were fourteen major articles in the Almanac, interspersed with notes, quotes, and illustrations. Kandinskii published his concept of "inner necessity." He revised it in 1912, in his famous essay On the Spiritual in Art, Especially in Painting (originally written in German). For Kandinskii, art was a portrayal of spiritual values. All art builds from the spiritual and intellectual life of the twentieth century. While each art form appears to be different externally, their internal properties serve the same inner purpose, of moving and refining the human soul. This belief in the secret correspondence of all the arts would become a cornerstone of Kandinskii's artistic convictions and a foundation of his painting. The article marked the artist's transition from objective to non-objective art. In 1914, he returned to Moscow and three years later married Nina Andreevskaia. He was active as a teacher, museum worker, writer, and lecturer, responsible for designing the pedagogical program for the Institute of Artistic Culture (Inkhuk) for 1920, which included Suprematism, Tatlin's "Culture of Materials," and Kandinskii's own theories. The program was opposed by the future Constructivists and Kandinskii had to wait for its implementation until his years at the Bauhaus. In 1921, he was actively involved in the organization of Rakhn (Russian Academy of Aesthetics). At the end of the same year, Kandinskii went to Germany to teach at the Bauhaus, where he was to stay until its closure by the Nazis in 1933. He participated in the Erste Russische Kunstausstellung in Berlin (1922). In 1924, together with Feininger, Iavlenskii, and Klee, the artist established the Blue Four. He moved to Paris in 1933 and remained active as a painter till his death. (After The Avant-Garde in Russia).

In an excellent book on Kandinskii, Hajo Duechting divides the artist's creative development into six periods:

Kandinskii introduced a completely new conception of painting that he bequeathed to us in a variety of modes which were often received with hostility. It is a model of art that is non-representational, but understandable in substance. Very different artists and artistic trends have branched out from this model. But the resources of Kandinskii's ideas and theories have not yet been exhausted. (Adapted from Duechting). [K.T. and A.B.]

[Sources: Duechting, O'Neill, The Avant-Garde in Russia].


© Alexander Boguslawski 1998-2005