Famous Artists Series – Wassily Kandinsky – Abstract Expressionism Artist
“Colour is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many chords.” These are the words of Wassily Kandinsky, a musically and spiritually influenced Russia-born painter and geometric series abstract art theorist, considered to be the ‘Father of Abstract Art’. Kandinsky played a pivotal role in the development of abstract expressionism. He was one of the first artists to explore the theories of pure or non-representational abstraction. In the course of evolvement of his art, he moved from organic and fluid to geometric and ultimately to pictographic styles. The influence of music on Kandinsky’s abstract art work is evident from the fact that he titled many of them impressions, improvisations or compositions.
Wassily Kandinsky was born the son of a tea merchant in Moscow on the 4th of December 1866. Kandinsky grew up in a musical household as both of his parents were very keen amateur musicians. This possibly influenced him to learn to play the cello and the piano by himself at a very young age. Kandinsky was a student of economics and law at the University of Moscow from 1886 through 1892, where after graduation he became a lecturer. An important influence on Kandinsky while he was in Moscow was ‘Haystacks’, a painting by Monet, the style of which could not be recognized by Kandinsky.
In 1897 Kandinsky – aged thirty – left Moscow for Munich to pursue an artistic education, which was to include; life-drawing, anatomy and sketching. Here, he studied art with Anton Azbe at the Kunstakademie. Teaching at the ‘Phalanx’ art school which he co-founded, Kandinsky formed a companionship with Gabriele Münter, one of his students.
Most of Kandinsky’s paintings in the period from 1896 to 1911 did not include human figures, although ‘Sunday, Old Russia’ (1904) and ‘Riding Couple’ (1907) are exceptions. ‘The Blue Rider’ (1903) is perhaps Kandinsky’s most important work from his early period from 1900-1910. The year 1910 saw Kandinsky producing his first abstract art work in watercolour.
Kandinsky was actively involved in numerous controversial and influential 20th century art movements. One such movement was ‘Blue Rider’ (Der Blaue Reiter), the name of which came from Kandinsky’s painting of the same name. Kandinsky co-founded this movement which represented German Expressionism, with Franz Marc. He took classes at the Bauhaus – a pioneering art and architecture school – founded by Walter Gropius. During Kandinsky’s period of involvement with the Bauhaus, his abstract art paintings – ‘Half-Circle’, ‘Circle’, ‘Straight Lines’, ‘Curve’ and ‘Angle’ – showed an increasing prominence in geometrical elements.
In 1933 Kandinsky settled in Neuilly, near Paris. His abstract art output in this year and the following years was a cause for controversy. His abstract paintings in these years showed biomorphic forms having non-geometric outlines. In addition to producing colour compositions that were original and others influenced by popular Slavonic art, Kandinsky sometimes mixed paint with sand to achieve a granular texture. Kandinsky died in 1944 at Neuilly-sur-Seine (France) five years after gaining French citizenship.