Wassily Kandinsky

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Kandinsky, Wassily or Vasily

(kăndĭn`skē, Rus. vəsē`lyē kəndyēn`skē), 1866–1944, Russian abstract painter and theorist. Usually regarded as the originator of abstract art, Kandinsky abandoned a legal career for painting at 30 when he moved to Munich. In subsequent trips to Paris he came into contact with the art of GauguinGauguin, Paul
, 1848–1903, French painter and woodcut artist, b. Paris; son of a journalist and a French-Peruvian mother. Early Life

Gauguin spent the first six years of his life with his family in Lima Peru; as an adolescent he was a sailor in the French
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, neoimpressionism (see postimpressionismpostimpressionism,
term coined by Roger Fry to refer to the work of a number of French painters active at the end of the 19th cent. who, although they developed their varied styles quite independently, were united in their rejection of impressionism.
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), and fauvismfauvism
[Fr. fauve=wild beast], name derisively hurled at and cheerfully adopted by a group of French painters, including Matisse, Rouault, Derain, Vlaminck, Friesz, Marquet, van Dongen, Braque, and Dufy.
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. He then developed his ideas concerning the power of pure color and nonrepresentational painting. His first work in this mode was completed in 1910, the year in which he wrote an important theoretical study, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912, tr. 1947 and 1977). In this work he examines the psychological effects of color and his concept of the kinship between music and art.

Kandinsky exhibited with the BrückeBrücke, Die
[Ger.,=the bridge], German expressionist art movement, lasting from 1905 to 1913. Influenced by the art of Jugendstil (the German equivalent of art nouveau), Van Gogh, and the primitive sculpture of Africa and the South Seas, the Brücke
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 group, and with Franz MarcMarc, Franz
, 1880–1916, German painter. Influenced by August Macke, he developed a rich, chromatic symbolism. He depicted a mystical world of animals, especially horses, employing devices of distortion to express the animals' own awareness of their lives.
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 and others he founded the Blaue ReiterBlaue Reiter, der
[Ger.,=the blue rider], German expressionist art movement, lasting from 1911 to 1914. It took its name from a painting by Kandinsky, Le cavalier bleu.
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 group. In 1915 he returned to Moscow, where he taught and directed artistic activities. During the early 1920s his style evolved from riotous bursts of color in his "Improvisations" to more precise, geometrically arranged compositions. In 1921 he returned to Germany and the next year joined the BauhausBauhaus
, artists' collective and school of art and architecture in Germany (1919–33). The Bauhaus revolutionized art training by combining the teaching of classic arts with the study of crafts.
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 faculty. In 1926 he wrote Point and Line to Plane (tr. 1947), which includes an analysis of geometric forms in art. At the outset of World War II, he went to France, where he spent the rest of his life. In American public collections, Kandinsky is particularly well represented in the Guggenheim Museum, New York City, and California's Pasadena Art Museum.


See his Reminiscences (1913; tr. in Modern Artists on Art, ed. by R. L. Herbert, 1964); biographies by J. Lassaigne (1964) and J. Hahl-Koch (1994); P. Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich: 1896–1914 (1982); V. E. Barnett, Kandinsky: At the Guggenheim (1983); C. V. Poling, Kandinsky: Russian and Bauhaus Years, 1915–1933 (1983); Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Staff, Kandinsky in Paris, 1934–1944 (1985); A. and L. Vezin, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider (1992); T. M. Messer, Vasily Kandinsky (1997); U. Becks-Malorny, Wassily Kandinsky, 1866–1944: The Journey to Abstraction (1999).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kandinsky, Wassily


(Vasilii Vasil’evich Kandinskii). Born Dec. 4 (16), 1866, in Moscow; died Dec. 13, 1944, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. Russian painter; one of the founders of abstract art.

In 1897 and 1898, Kandinsky studied at the Asbé School in Munich. In 1900 he was a student under F. Stuck at the Munich Academy of Arts. Kandinsky lived in Berlin in 1907. He subsequently settled in Munich, where he and F. Marc founded the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group in 1911. As early as 1910, the self-sufficient play of color and line gradually began to replace figurative representations in Kandinsky’s paintings. This stylistic development can be observed in the paintings Ladies in Crinoline (1909, Tret’iakov Gallery), Improvisation No. 7 (1910, Tret’iakov Gallery), Vagueness (1917, Tret’iakov Gallery), and Composition No. 10 (1939, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris).

In his attempt to affirm the principles of “pure” painting, Kandinsky proclaimed the creative process of an artist to be a certain “self-expression and self-development of the spirit.” Thus, “pure” painting reflected the individualistic and subjectivistic tendencies of the culture of 20th-century bourgeois society.

Kandinsky returned to Russia in 1914. He was among the organizers of the Museum of Pictorial Culture in Petrograd and of Inkhuk (Institute of Artistic Culture) in Moscow. In 1921 he returned to Germany, where he became a professor at the Bauhaus in 1922. He settled in Paris in 1933.


V. V. Kandinskii (tekst Khudozhnika). Moscow, 1918.
Über das Geistige in der Kunst. Munich, 1912. (Excerpts in Russian appear in the book Trudy Vserossiiskogo s“ezda khudozhnikov v Petrograde: Dekabr’ 1911-ianvar’ 1912, vol. 1 [Petrograd, 1914], pp. 47–76.)
Punkt and Linie zu Fldche: Beit rag zur Analyse der malerischen Elemente. Munich, 1926.


Reingardt, L. “Abstraktsionizm.” In Modernizm: Analiz i kritika osnovnykh napravlenii. Moscow, 1969. Pages 101–11.
Grohmann, W. Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work. New York, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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