Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Born in Moscow in 1866, Wassily Kandinsky was more than a talented artist; he was also a teacher and a theorist, and additionally studied law and music. Kandinsky was one of the pioneers of non-representational art, and his work and theories paved the way for all abstract art to follow.
As a child, Kandinsky was a quick study of both the piano and cello. From 1886 to 1892, he studied law and economics in Moscow, afterwards teaching at the Moscow Faculty of Law. In 1896, however, the thirty-year-old Kandinsky changed his career and attended the Azbe Art College in Munich and the Academy of Art, graduating in 1900. In 1909, he traveled to Paris where he was introduced to such Fauvists as Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Georges Braque and Maurice de Vlaminck. His exposure to such colorful and freely painted works influenced him to use high color and a loose technique. In 1913 he began to create what would become some of the first completely abstract work in modern art.
1909 was a busy year for Kandinsky. In addition to traveling to Paris, he also became one of the founders of the Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen, where his developing theories gained further form and conviction. He resigned in 1911 only to co-found (with Franz Marc) Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), which operated on the concept of art as a messenger of the spiritual and transcendent rather than as a copy of the material world. Also in 1909, the artist completed a series entitled Impressions, which was followed in 1910 by Improvisations, and in 1911 by Compositions. All three series employed Kandinsky’s theories and laid the foundation for abstract art.
As a theorist and a teacher, Kandinsky was renowned; in 1912, he published the first theoretical treatise on abstraction entitled Concerning the Spiritual in Art. The outbreak of war, however, forced the artist to leave Munich, and return to Moscow, where he taught at the Moscow Academy of Fine Arts. In 1921, Kandinsky was invited to organize and teach a mural painting workshop at the Bauhaus in Germany. Here, he developed an intricate web of theories based on color and form and employed them in his teaching strategies, disseminating his thoughts through his students. The artist stayed at the Bauhaus until the Nazis closed it in 1933.
After leaving the Bauhaus for Paris, Kandinsky entered a new phase of painting, which explored biomorphic abstract forms, continuing to lead the way for all non-representational expressionist painting. His interest in synaesthesia and the harmony of color and form brought together painting and music, and his theories on the spirituality of art helped to make abstract art what it is today. Wassily Kandinsky died in Paris in 1944.