The Artist Wassily Kandinsky

Regarded as the first painter of Abstract Art, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was born in 1866 in Moscow. His association to Expressionism and Abstract Art was often criticized during his lifetime, but his work and writings on artistic theory have had a profound impact on Western art. His most famous works include On White II (1923) and Der Blaue Reiter (1903).

Much of Kandinsky’s childhood was spent in Odessa. His father was a successful tea merchant. His parents divorced while he was a child and he lived mainly with his father or was cared for by an aunt. He studied economics and law at the University of Moscow and worked successfully in this field until the age of thirty. In 1892 Kandinsky married his cousin but the two separated in 1904 and were officially divorced by 1911. At the age of thirty Kandinsky left his career to study art which had hitherto been a hobby for him, but one he felt passionately about. His art was always informed by his intense reaction to music which mostly inspired his later paintings.

Kandinsky studied art in Munich but returned to Russia during WWI. In 1917 he married Nina von Andreyevski. After the war his theory and work in art were rejected by the Russian government so he returned to Germany where he took up a post teaching at the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture. He taught there from 1922 until the Nazis dissolved it in 1933. He and his wife moved to France where the artist Marcel Duchamp helped them procure a house in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Kandinsky eventually became a French citizen.

A turning point in Kandinsky’s formative years was seeing a painting of haystacks by Monet. Kandinsky was initially troubled to be unable to discern the image. The memory of the painting, however, lasted and he began to explore alternative conceptions of art. Music also profoundly influenced his artwork and he often discussed his work using musical phraseology and vocabulary. Kandinsky was concerned with self-expression through art and using color to showcase mood and emotion. Not only did Kandinsky’s paintings reflect a new idea—the abstract painting, but his writings outlined his theory about abstract art. His paintings often conveyed hidden meaning which might be revealed by studying his body of art.

Kandinsky died in 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine. He became one of the most influential artists of his era and greatly affected the evolution of modern art. He opened the door to Abstract Expressionism which has remained popular since the end of WWII. His use of colors and his geometric-style paintings have been called jewel-like by scholars of art.