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Artist in Focus : Wassily Kandinsky

In this section for Art From Us, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at Wassily Kandinsky.

Art From Us & Divvya Nirula introduce you to artists and their art. Underlining significant works, discovering creative practices. And giving you a glimpse into their studio.

Life

Kandinsky was born towards the end of the 19th century to parents of mixed ethnicities. His father was Muscovite and his mother was of Mongolian descent. Kandinsky’s upbringing was a combination of European and Asian cultures. He was born into a wealthy family and travelled with his family all over Europe. Soaking up different historical and cultural elements. He was still not into art. Rather as he completed his schooling, he was a proficient musician. He had perfected the piano and the cello. It was during this time that he first displayed an active interest in art.

He made a connection between colours and their inherent individuality. Their ability to express an emotion and feeling. Kandinsky would go on to develop his theory much later, which would become a movement.

Kandinsky moved to Berlin during political unrest in Russia in 1917, where he was styling after his marriage and moved to Berlin.

The artist always was wanted to teach art as well as create. His time at the Bauhaus was perhaps amongst his most memorable periods. Kandinsky passed away in 1944 in Paris where he lived after the Nazis forced closure of the Bauhaus. He left an indelible mark and a solid foundation for modern artists to come.

Movement

It was during 1909 that Kandinsky was being inspired by the Expressionist movement. It was his Der Blaue Reiter, which he had painted in 1903 that would lend its name to the movement that he was at the helm of. He very much wanted to create a space for radical artists who were condemned for their nouveau techniques and abstract styles. He founded the Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen (NKVM, or New Artists Association of Munich). One important change along with the art which was radically different form his previous styles – was that his titles were deliberately objective.

In 1911, along with Franz Marc, Kandinsky and Marc heralded the ‘Der Blau Reiter’, a movement that was stemming from German Expressionism.

Kandinsky published his theory on abstraction, which augmented his theory about the affinity between the artist and spirituality. Kandinsky expanded his non-objective works while he still continued to create abstract and figurative works. The movement came to an end with the unfortunate death of Franz Marc during WWI.

Kandinsky was deeply affected and it was after he returned to Moscow in 1916 that he familiarized himself with other great artists once again. He absorbed the ideas of the Consturctivists and Suprematists styles. But the October Revolution of 1917 was a blow to Kandinsky’s plans of starting an art school, and he and wife fled to Berlin.

Legacy

Kandinsky’s contribution to the world of art is formidable. His art theory formed the basis of modern art movements, especially Abstract Expressionism. He influenced many others with his painterly style, backed with his ideas about the core concept of the creative potential of colours themselves. The Color Field painters and Neo Expressionists owed much to Kandinsky and his manifesto.

57 of his canvasses were confiscated by the Nazi’s for their ‘degenerate’ content but his works were famously collected by Solomon R Guggenheim, despite Fascist repressions. And thus these works were imperative in shaping the modernist missions of the Guggenheim museum, which supported avant-garde art and artists.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the Artist in Focus archive.

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