Kandinsky, Wassily 1866-1944
Russian painter, critic, and poet.
Considered one of the most influential painters of the German Expressionist movement, Kandinsky is best known for his artistic and theoretical contributions to the development of nonrepresentational, or abstract, art. Using brilliant colors in compositions of geometric shapes and lines, he sought to communicate experiences and emotions through a purely visual language divested of all symbolic or narrative content. In doing so, Kandinsky redefined traditional concepts of the picture plane and provided the rationale for much of modern art.
Kandinsky was born to an affluent family in Moscow and educated in Odessa, a port city in the southern Ukraine. In 1886 he enrolled in a program of law, economics, and politics at Moscow University, where, after graduating in 1893, he accepted a position on the Faculty of Law. During his years as a student and instructor, he became fascinated with art, and after viewing the paintings of the French Impressionists in 1895 he abandoned his teaching position to study painting. As a student at the Munich Academy of Art, he developed and interest in Art Noveau or Jugendstil, a movement whose adherents promoted decorative art. By 1901, Kandinsky had become a noteworthy figure in the art community in Munich. Critics generally refer to the years between 1908 and 1914—when Kandinsky first espoused abstractionism—as the period of his greatest achievements. According to an often-cited anecdote, Kandinsky's "discovery" of abstract art occurred in 1908 when, struck by the beauty and originality of one of his own paintings, he realized that the work had been turned upside-down; the figures he had found especially pleasing and communicative owed their advantage to their lack of conventional denotation.
In 1912 Kandinsky, along with his colleagues Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc, and August Macke, formed the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group. Blue Rider offered a forum in its publication Blaue Reiter Almanack for the diverse viewpoints concerning art, music, and architecture found in the Expressionist movement. At the onset of World War I, he returned to Russia, where he remained for seven years, teaching art at the University of Moscow and serving as a consultant for the country's cultural education program. In 1922 Kandinsky accepted a teaching position on the staff of the Bauhaus, Germany's creative center for architecture and design. He remained as an instructor at the Bauhaus until 1933, when the National Socialist Government forced the school to close. He then moved to Paris where he set up a studio and devoted his time to painting. He died in 1944.
Kandinsky's early paintings were highly stylized and colorful landscapes that reflect the influence of the Fauvists, often containing figures reminiscent of fairy tale and Russian folklore characters, as in his Couple Riding of 1905. After his discovery of abstract art in 1908, his paintings became increasingly abstract, consisting of black lines and vividly colored arcs and triangles in compositions dominated by blue, purple, yellow, and red, colors that he believed representative of specific psychological states, In addition to painting, he documented the artistic principles upon which he based his use of color and form, publishing his theories as Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1911. This essay proved to be one of the most influential treatises on art ever written. His later work is generally considered a culmination of his talents, and most critics note that the geometric and organic shapes in his later works are more precisely defined and more intricate in dimension, than those of his earlier works, creating an impression of energy and movement.
While Kandinsky's delineation of the aims of abstract art is regarded as eloquent and important, many critics contend that his own work often failed to incorporate the principles he advanced. Such critics note in particular that his paintings do not achieve his goal of creating nonrepresentational works that would transcend mere decoration through their power to express ideas and emotions. However, Kandinsky's theories were successfully realized by subsequent artists and art movements, and he is therefore acknowledged as the primary theorist of modern abstractionism.
Klänge [Sounds] (prose poems) 1912
Über das Geistige in der Kunst [Concerning the Spiritual in Art] (criticism) 1912
Punkt und Linie zu Flache: Beitrag zur Analyse der malerischen Elemente [Point and Line to Plane: Contributions to the Analysis of the Pictorial Elements] (criticism) 1926
Kandinsky: The Bauhaus Years (catalog) 1966
Ecrits Complets. 2 vols. [Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art] (criticism) 1970
Arnold Schönberg, Wassily Kandinsky: Briefe, Bilder und Dokumente einer aussergewöhnlichen Begegnung [Arnold Schoenberg, Wassily Kandinsky: Letters, Pictures, and Documents] (letters) 1980
Kandinsky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings. 2 vols. (catalog) 1982
Kandinsky: Watercolors and Drawings (catalog) 1992
Kandinsky (catalog) 1999
(The entire section is 93 words.)
SOURCE: "Secession," in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 4, Summer, 1997, p. 729.
[In the following translation of an 1899 review, Kandinsky assesses the work shown at the 1899 Munich Secession's international exhibit.]
Kandinsky's review of the 1899 Munich Secession's international exhibition is his first major art essay.1 It appeared in Novosti dnia (News of the Day), 4 November 1899, a prominent Moscow daily newspaper covering local, national, and international events, with occasional features on literature and art. Its discovery revises the status given to Kandinsky's 1901 article "Critique of Critics,"2 which has been credited by Western scholars as his first essay on art.3 "Secession"'s publication thus gives us some of the earliest indications of Kandinsky's views on art, when he was a student in Munich. It was written only weeks before the approaching new century at a time when Kandinsky witnessed profound changes in art whose impact would be felt for years to come.
In "Secession," Kandinsky recognized art's affinity with the momentum of the changing age and the promise it would bring for greater innovation and expertise. The essay was a response to debates within Russia's art community on the value of such progress to Russian culture and society. "Secession" follows a series of articles written in 1898 and...
(The entire section is 3810 words.)
SOURCE: "Esthetic Theories of Wassily Kandinsky," in German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, 1957, pp. 223-33.
[In the following essay, Selz delineates the major themes of Kandinsky's theoretical writings, in particular his Concerning the Spiritual in Art and "Über die Formfrage. "]
The artistic purpose of the Blaue Reiter movement was most thoroughly articulated in Kandinsky's theoretical writings, especially the two essays, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and "Über die Formfrage," published in Der Blaue Reiter. Although these essays, which both appeared in 1912,1 are largely based on earlier esthetic theory, they constitute almost a programmatic manifesto for the expressionist generation:
If Der Blaue Reiter, published by R. Piper, is taken together with Kandinsky's supplement, Das Geistige in der Kunst, as a unity, then this double volume is just as much the book of the pre-war years, as Hildebrand's Problem der Form was the book of the turn of the century. The separation of the two generations is already made clear in the title, which emphasizes form in the one and spirit in the other.2
Kandinsky's particular didactic style makes his writings difficult to read and analyze. Kenneth Lindsay, in his study of Kandinsky's theories,...
(The entire section is 6268 words.)
SOURCE: "The Lucid Order of Wassily Kandinsky," in Art and Alienation: The Role of the Artist in Society, Horizon Press, 1967, pp. 138-50.
[In the following essay, Read traces the development of Kandinsky's painting and philosophy of art.]
As a painter Kandinsky's achievement was coherent in development, original in style, and accumulative in force; but the painting was the direct expression of a slowly matured philosophy of art. It is possible that this philosophy of art has as much significance for the future as the paintings that were its outcome, but in this essay I shall try to show how the philosophy and the painting evolved, step by step in dialectical correspondence.
Wassily Kandinsky was born on 4 December 1866, in the city of Moscow. His father belonged to a family that had for many years lived as exiles in East Siberia, near the Mongolian frontier. There seems to have been some mingling of blood in the family history: one of Kandinsky's great grandmothers is said to have been a Mongolian princess, and there was a distinct Mongolian cast on Kandinsky's own features. His mother, however, was a true Moscovite, and the son was always sentimentally attached to the city of his birth. His maternal grandmother was German, and German was a language he spoke in his infancy; he was fascinated by German fairy-tales. The Kandinskys seem to have been fairly well-to-do; when Wassily was...
(The entire section is 4659 words.)
SOURCE: "The Kandinsky Paradox," in The Hudson Review, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, Spring, 1973, pp. 177-87.
[In the following essay, Millard maintains that although Kandinsky was a great theoretician, he was not a great painter.]
Because Kandinsky occupies a particularly prominent place in the development of twentieth-century painting there has been an unspoken tendency to assume that his is an art of the first quality. If not ranked with the work of masters such as Matisse, it is tacitly presumed to occupy a place among the output of the major painters not much below the top level. It is, therefore, something of a shock to review a sizable and representative selection of his work and to realize that if Kandinsky was perhaps the most powerful and daring intellect among the artists of the last seventy-five years he was far from being possessed of a strong pictorial sensibility. Put more simply, he was a great theoretician, and perhaps on that account a great artist, but by no means a great painter. Apart from more specific problems, which an investigation of his development will make apparent, Kandinsky's work suffers from a pervading dryness which consistently keeps it from being a rich visual experience however much it may offer to the analytical mind.
During the early years of his career, until about 1908, Kandinsky's work seems largely to have been composed of modest essays in painting and...
(The entire section is 2707 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky and Problems of Abstraction," in Artforum, Vol. XVII, No. 3, November, 1978, pp. 58-63.
[In the following essay, Mackie explores the role of abstract form in Kandinsky's art and artistic philosophy.]
In a very sympathetic article Hilton Kramer once voiced his misgivings (and disappointments) about Kandinsky, arriving at the view that he populated naturalistic (19th-century landscape) space with abstract forms and was unable to come to terms with the pictorial implications of the tendency of abstract forms to flatten space.1 Implicit in this criticism, of course, is the assumption that abstract forms demand a certain kind of spatial treatment, and this assumption, in turn, is part of a view about the nature and purpose of abstraction itself. Kandinsky was well aware that abstract forms suggest a narrowing of spatial depth, but he obviously did not think that they demanded it, as at least two passages from Concerning the Spiritual in Art show. So the first question we should ask is, "To what end did Kandinsky introduce abstract forms into his art?"
The answer, I think, lies in his theoretical writings and the fact that they embody the fundamentals of theosophical thought. Such connections have been made before, notably by Sixten Ringbom, who transfers the metaphysics of auras and thought-forms to the works and reads them in a symbolic...
(The entire section is 4985 words.)
SOURCE: "'Les Tendances Nouvelles', The Union Internationale Des Beaux-Arts, Des Lettres, Des Sciences et De L'Industrie and Kandinsky," in Art History, Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 1979, pp. 221-46.
[In the following essay, Fineberg traces Kandinsky's relationship with the influential art journal Les Tendances Nouvelles.]
1. THE HISTORY AND CHARACTER OF LES TENDANCES NOUVELLES
The Parisian revue, Les Tendances Nouvelles, emerged in May of 1904 as part of an ambitious enterprise, consisting not only of a periodical, but of a gallery, an exhibition society, and an international artists' co-operative with explicitly Utopian goals. This effort actually put into practice many of the characteristic ideals of Symbolism, which still held sway in the Paris art world during the first decade of this century and were passed on to the young Expressionists. Despite the broad variety of individual viewpoints published by the magazine, its Symbolist profile remained clear—in its social aspirations for art, its co-operative nature, its belief in the metaphysical unity of the various arts, its espousal of parallels between art and science, and its not infrequent forays into the mystic. Even the wide range of authors with different beliefs stems from a Symbolist appreciation for sincere individuality. Indeed, Les Tendances Nouvelles may be a more concrete and representative...
(The entire section is 13223 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky's Vision," in The Life of Vasilii Kandinsky in Russian Art: A Study of 'On the Spiritual in Art', edited by John E. Bowlt and Rose-Carol Washton Long, and translated by John Bowlt, Oriental Research Partners, 1980, pp. 43-61.
[In the following essay, Long analyzes the purpose and meaning of Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art, maintaining that the artist "attempted to resolve the dilemma of how to effectively communicate a vision of man's spirituality while avoiding both materialistic representation on the one hand and decorative ornament on the other. "]
The publication of Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art in 19121 can be considered one of the catalytic forces which helped trigger an increasing number of experiments with abstraction before World War I. Although the idea of painting in an abstract style was not new, after On the Spiritual in Art reached the public, a number of artists such as Kupka, Mondrian, Delaunay, Picabia, Larionov, and Goncharova began to exhibit works which contained few if any remnants of imagistic references in their colorful surfaces. A direct connection between Kandinsky and each of these artists cannot always be substantiated, but by 1912 critics across Europe had begun to view Kandinsky's paintings and essays as an example of one of the most radical trends in contemporary art.
In Russia, soon after a...
(The entire section is 7802 words.)
SOURCE: An introduction to Wassily Kandinsky: Sounds, translated and with an introduction by Elizabeth R. Napier, Yale University Press, 1981, pp. 134-36.
[In the following essay, Napier provides a stylistic and thematic overview of Kandinsky's poetry. ]
In 1938, recalling the publication of Klänge, Kandinsky spoke of it as "a small example of synthetic work":
This is, for me, a "change of instrument"—the palette to one side and the typewriter in its place. I use the word "instrument" because the force which motivates my work remains unchanged, an "inner drive." And it is this very drive which calls for a frequent change of instrument.2
For Kandinsky, 1908-14 were crucial years of transition and experimentation. By 1909, he had begun the composition of Klänge; by summer of that year, he was exhibiting in his painting the first decisive signs of a turning away from objective representation and a growing interest in abstraction. As the orientation of Kandinsky's work shifted, a change occurred in his compositional procedure: the logical demands of an extrinsic subject matter gradually began to give way to an organizational theory founded upon inherent properties of color and form. In principle, the transition was from an "absolute" mode of composition that derived from sources outside the work to one...
(The entire section is 4856 words.)
SOURCE: "The Glow of Irreality," in New York Review of Books, Vol. XXVIII, No. 13, August 13, 1981, pp. 40-43.
[In the following favorable review of Sounds, Spender considers the relationship between Kandinsky's poetry and his painting.]
The coincidence of the exhibition "Kandinsky: The Improvisations" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington with the publication of Elizabeth Napier's translation of Kandinsky's book Sounds (Klänge) is happy. Both belong approximately to the second decade of the present century. Kandinsky painted the first Improvisation in 1909. In 1913 Klänge, a volume of thirty-eight prose poems and fifty-six woodcuts, twelve of them in color, was published by Piper Verlag in Munich, in an edition of 345 copies. This edition, which did not sell well at the time, is one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century German book production. Five copies are on display in the present exhibition, though, as is inevitable, they are in a glass case, so that one can see only three poems and five woodcuts.
Nineteen of the original thirty-six Improvisations are here, together with drawings, watercolors, and prints. It is a small exhibition—about thirty items in all—the third in the excellent series of such exhibitions in the new building of the National Gallery, where the awed visitor searches for pictures among the overpowering architecture as for...
(The entire section is 3770 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky's Book of Revelation," in Art in America, December, 1982, pp. 105-09, 157-59.
[In the following essay, Radcliff examines the apocalyptic vision in Kandinsky's seminal essay, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and compares it to the biblical book of Revelation.]
I would like to propose that Expressionism enjoys a special relationship with apocalypse. This is not a new idea. The Expressionists themselves came up with it. Nor, I must admit, does this notion permit us to draw very clear lines. What modernist style has not served as a more or less sensitive seismograph of our century's millennial tremors? High modernism aside, every plateau of the culture offers a platform from which to broadcast the jitters endured awaiting the final demise of everything—or of everything deemed significant. "End of Consumer Culture?" asks an editorial in ZG, a London-based art magazine with an earnestly street-level view of our situation.
That end, foreshadowed for ZG in the work of Jack Goldstein and David Salle, would be liberation as well as cataclysm. Apocalypses always damn those who deserve it while preserving the elect, those who signal their state of grace with an ability to see doom far off, across the mirage-filled wasteland where the damned muddle through obliviously. Thus "the death-knell of a dying consumer culture" may well have the lilt of glad tidings,...
(The entire section is 4634 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky: The Owl of Minerva," in Passion and Rebellion: The Expressionist Heritage, edited by Stephen Eric Bronner and Douglas Kellner, J. F. Bergin Publishers, Inc., 1983, pp. 250-75.
[In the following essay, Pester deems Kandinsky and his work an embodiment of the revolutionary ideas spreading throughout Europe during the early twentieth century.]
Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the foremost philosophers of the abstract expressionist movement in painting. He was an artist of unsurpassed lucidity who refused to choose for the "analytical" against the "mystical/lyrical," and successfully materialized his vision in oils, watercolor, and graphics. At once artist and intellectual, he was the common point of a number of creative vectors, among them Dada, Surrealism, German Expressionism, the Bauhaus, Constructivism, and the many other lively trends in early Soviet art. For example, as a poet, Kandinsky contributed to the Dada review Cabaret Voltaire in 1916; he was instrumental in introducing the Neue Sezession group of Berlin to the Munich Neue Kunstlervereinigung and to the Russian Suprematists and Rayonnists: his nephew was Kojeve, the professor of philosophy who introduced Hegel to the Generation of 1905 in Paris; he was a major figure in the Bauhaus and personally recruited a number of participants to that unique experiment. In effect Kandinsky formed an...
(The entire section is 10148 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Sounds, in American Book Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, January-February, 1983, pp. 4-5.
[In the following review, Rasula offers a positive assessment of Kandinsky's Sounds, deeming it "one of the essential books of poetry of the century, whatever one may think of Kandinsky's art. "]
One of the essential conjunctions between modernists that never came to pass was a meeting between Kandinsky and the London artists of the Wyndham Lewis/Ezra Pound circle. Not that any such meeting was ever a possibility, but the English translation of Sounds makes one wish it had come to pass, somehow, more for Pound's benefit than Kandinsky's, I should add. Lewis and Pound were well aware of Kandinsky, both through his painting and his book On the Spiritual in Art. Lewis' magazine BLAST, appearing in June 1914, contained a lengthy review of Kandinsky's book, recently translated by M.T.H. Sadler under the title The Art of Spiritual Harmony. The review was by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, though "review" is not quite the term for a text that consists almost entirely of extracts from the book. The intent was clearly to expose readers to Kandinsky's treatise not obliquely by reference but, in the manner of BLAST s overall substance, by direct impact. So extensive are the passages quoted from Kandinsky's book, in fact, that this crucial opening issue of...
(The entire section is 2142 words.)
SOURCE: "Occultism, Anarchism, and Abstraction: Kandinsky's Art of the Future," in Art Journal, Vol. 46, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 38-45.
[In the following essay, Long determines the influence of occultism and anarchism on Kandinsky's writings and art.]
As art historians in recent years have examined the development of modern art, it has become more and more apparent that the interest in occult and mystical knowledge evinced by many artists was often part of a search for alternatives to restrictive social and political attitudes and outworn conventions. For solutions to the problems created by an increasingly industrialized and commercialized society, many artists explored heretical metaphysical concepts, fringe political systems, and deviant sexual patterns and, in the process, discovered new artistic methods for themselves. Yet the varied anarchistic, socialistic, and sexual theories that engaged these artists in conjunction with occultism and mysticism have too often been neglected by scholars. Although the quests for a spiritual utopia and a secular one have often been closely related, many art historians have equated artists' interest in mysticism with hostile attitudes towards social and political change.
A few scholars have noted that both social concerns and mystical thought provided stimuli to modern artists interested in abstraction. Although Donald Drew Egbert's Social...
(The entire section is 7709 words.)
SOURCE: "Wassily Kandinsky in the Years of On the Spiritual in Art'," in An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, Shambhala, 1988, pp. 40-50.
[In the following essay, Lipsey provides an overview of the major themes of Kandinsky's seminal essay, contending that "its essential achievement was to identify the new art as a legitimate language of the spirit and to lay groundwork for a way of thinking, particularly about abstract art, that made sense. "]
More deliberately than any artist of our time, Kandinsky explored the spiritual in art through his work as a painter and through writings—articulate, generous, impassioned—which circulated the idea of the spiritual more widely than his paintings ever did. It was his central idea, and he regarded it as the central idea of the art emerging all around him in 1912 when his small masterpiece, On the Spiritual in Art, was first published. In his eyes the spiritual was also the emerging task of the twentieth century, which he thought destined to correct the materialism of nineteenth-century culture. His prewar work as a painter and printmaker may not fully demonstrate for all viewers the vision captured in his writings, but he was prompt to recognize that art had only begun to find its way along a new path. His early writings need to be sifted for ideas that have stood the test of time and even gained in substance. But Kandinsky does not...
(The entire section is 4023 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky at the Klavier: Stevens and the Musical Theory of Wassily Kandinsky," in The Wallace Stevens Journal Vol. 16, No. 2, Fall, 1992, pp. 151-60.
[In the following essay, Faherty explores Wallace Stevens's interest in Kandinsky's work.]
In June 1952, Stevens wrote to the Irish poet and art historian Thomas McGreevy:
It made Kandinsky for me. I had not seen much of his work up to then and certainly not enough to make it possible to see it as a minor cosmos, which it is. It is the sort of thing that is wholly esthetic and wholly delightful. And from that point of view it seemed valid. (Brazeau)
While it is clear from this comment to McGreevy that Stevens was by no means unfamiliar with the Russian painter, it is also clear that he had been reserving his judgment on Kandinsky's achievement until he had had a chance to see a considerable collection of his work. Stevens does not name the exhibition he refers to in the letter, but he does tell McGreevy that he saw it during a visit to New York to look at some paintings by Jack Yeats.1 The only considerable collection of Kandinsky's work on exhibit in New York at this time would have been a show hosted by the Knoedler Galleries from May 10th to June 6th of that year. The exhibition was organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, which had the...
(The entire section is 4095 words.)
SOURCE: "The Third Dimension: Ezra Pound and Wassily Kandinsky," in Paideuma, Vol. 21, No. 3, Winter, 1992, pp. 63-77.
[In the following essay, Faherty determines the influence of Kandinsky's theoretical writings on the work of the poet Ezra Pound.]
The very first English critic to review Wassily Kandinsky's Über das Geistige in der Kunst was also the first to recognize its potential impact on the future of modern poetry. Writing in the arts journal Rhythm in the spring of 1912, shortly after Kandinsky's book first appeared on the shelves of Munich bookshops, Michael Sadler predicted that Kandinsky's theories of abstraction would not only alter the course of modern painting but modern verse as well. A writer himself, Sadler argued that poets need no longer concern themselves with description and mimesis but should feel free to experiment with the abstract possibilities of verse. However, Sadler was not the only one to recognize the value of Kandinsky's aesthetics for modern English poetry. In his crucial "Vorticism" essay, first published in the Fortnightly Review in September 1914, Ezra Pound also called for an end to the naturalistic tendencies of modern poetry, offering Kandinsky's theories of abstraction as a viable alternative to the earlier impressionist analogies put forward by Ford Madox Ford and T. E. Hulme. For Pound, neither the "neo-impressionism" of the cubists nor the...
(The entire section is 5955 words.)
SOURCE: "Kandinsky's Ethnography: Scientific Field Work and Aesthetic Reflection," in Art History, Vol. 17, No. 2, June, 1994, pp. 182-208.
[In the following essay, McKay discusses Kandinsky's ethnographic essay "From Materials on the Ethnography of the Sysol and Vechegda Zyrians: The National Deities" and relates it to his autobiographical essay "Reminiscences. "]
This article explores how, in two essays written at separate moments of his adult career, Wassily Kandinsky represented the same ethnographic fieldwork experience in quite differing terms. The first of these essays is a scientific one: Kandinsky's 'From Materials on the Ethnography of the Sysol and Vechegda Zyrians: the National Deities (According to Contemporary Beliefs)' appeared in 1889 in the Ethnographic Review, a newly established forum for Russian ethnographic studies.1 This was based on fieldwork research which he undertook in the late spring of 1889, whilst a student at Moscow University. 2 This ethnographic treatise is the main object of my initial investigation, and I consider it as an historical document, one produced outside the 'history of art', but with reverberations within it. The first and main section of my article attempts to locate Kandinsky's ethnographic training and his 1889 publication within the prevailing discourses of the discipline at the time.3 The later part of my article has a...
(The entire section is 12403 words.)
SOURCE: "Vassily Kandinsky: Art With No Object, 1911-1912," in The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought, University of Chicago Press, 1997, pp. 303-20.
[In the following essay, Everdell investigates Kandinsky 's prolific output during the year 1911-1912.]
The tall, narrow roofs of the Promenadenplatz and Maximiliansplatz, which have now disappeared, the old part of Schwabing, and especially the Au, which I discovered by chance on one occasion, turned these fairy-tales into reality. The blue trams threaded their way through the streets like an incarnation of the air of a fairy-story, which one inhales with delightful ease. The yellow mailboxes sang their shrill, canary-yellow song from the street corners. I welcomed the label "art-mill," and felt I was in the city of art, which for me was the same as being in fairyland.
—Vassily Kandinsky, "Reminiscences"
The city was Munich, the capital of the southern German state of Bavaria. The artist was Vassily Kandinsky, who in 1911 was living and working in Munich's bohemian suburb of Schwabing. His studio at number 36 Ainmiller Street was a whirlpool of activity, and 1911 was to be his annus mirabilis. During the twelve months of his forty-fifth year, Kandinsky was to paint a dozen major paintings, together with innumerable studies and...
(The entire section is 9779 words.)
SOURCE: "Concerning the Western Spiritual in Russian Art: Vasily Kandinsky," in Russia Imagined: Art, Culture, and National Identity, 1840-1995, Peter Lang, 1997, pp. 45-59.
[In the following essay, Williams chronicles Kandinsky' s interest in religious mysticism and theosophy and discusses its influence on his work.]
In the early days of the Russian Revolution Bolshevism coexisted with Bohemia. Hundreds of artists and intellectuals rushed to help build a new society in which they might play a role, painting Agitprop trains, erecting monuments, composing symphonies for conductorless orchestras, reading Futurist poetry, filming the storming of the Winter Palace, directing workers' plays, and designing skyscrapers. Much of their art, however, was neither new nor Russian, but a development of pre-1914 avant-garde tendencies which many Russians had encountered in Europe. Munich was especially important as a transmitter of such tendencies. A number of young Russians studied art there before the First World War and returned to Russia with both technical training and ideas of a "new age" for an artistic elite. The Munich cartoonist for Simplicissimus, Olaf Gulbrandson, inspired the revolutionary poster art of D. Moor; the director of the Munich Art Theater, Georg Fuchs, had a major impact on Meyerhold; and the mystic Rudolf Steiner made a great impression on the painter Vasily Kandinsky. Indeed,...
(The entire section is 6317 words.)
Grohmann, Will. Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1965, 428 p.
Critical biography that includes a catalog of works, color reproductions, and photographs of the artist.
Lassaigne, Jacques. Kandinsky. Translated by H. S. B. Harrison. Geneva: Editions d'Art Albert Skira, 1964, 131 p.
Richly illustrated biographical and critical study of the artist.
Weiss, Peg. Kandinsky in Munich: The Formative Jugendstil Years. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979, 268 p.
Chronicles Kandinsky's Munich years and studies how that time affected his work.
Art Journal 43, No. 1 (Spring 1983): 9-66.
Special issue on Kandinsky includes essays on various aspects of his work by Peg Weiss, Kenneth C. Lindsay, Wolfgang Venzmer, Monica Strauss, Edward J. Kimball, Susan Alyson Stein, and Rose-Carol Washton Long.
Kobialka, Michal. "Theatre of Celebration/Disruption: Time and Space/Timespace in Kandinsky's Theatre Experiments." The Theatre Annual XLIV (1989-1990): 71-96.
Analyzes Kandinsky's experimental treatment of time in The Yellow Sound.
Long, Rose-Carol Washton. Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style. Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1980, 200 p....
(The entire section is 325 words.)