Wassily Kandinsky

Born: 1866

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky was born in Russia 1866. A painter and writer on art he was one of the most important pioneers of abstract art, abandoning a promising university career teaching law to travel to Munich in 1896 to study painting. In 1901 he was one of the founders of an avant-garde society called Phalanx, which was the main forum for Art Nouveau in Germany. His pictures combined features of Art Nouveau with his memories of Russian folk art, to which he added a fauve-like intensity of colour. By 1908 he had begun to eliminate the representational element from his work and by 1913 had arrived at pure abstraction.

Kandinsky said that his understanding of the power of non-representational art derived from a night when he went into his studio in Munich and failed to recognize one of his own paintings that was lying the wrong way up, seeing in it a picture of extraordinary beauty glowing with an inner radiance. From 1911 he was, along with Franz Marc, one of the most active figures in the Blaue Reiter group. By 1921 he had taken up a teaching post in the Bauhaus where he remained until it was closed in 1933. He died in 1944.

Kandinsky was one of the most influential artists of his generation both for his painting and for his writing. His progress towards abstraction proceeded alongside his philosophical views about the nature of art, which were influenced by theosophy and mysticism. He did not completely repudiate representation, but he held that the pure artist seeks to express only inner and essential feelings and ignores the superficial and fortuitous.

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